Chapter 18. Suffering
The Crown of Thorns.
Drawn by Rudolf Koch. Courtesy of Arion Press.
Have natural disasters and tragic world events ever brought tears to your eyes? Is humankind bringing its own punishment upon itself? "Every action has a reaction..." Have you ever wondered about the Reality beyond both sorrowful times? Reflecting upon the sorrows encapsulated in the words of Holy Scripture moves us to compassion. The Word Himself comforts us in our trials and sufferings and sends His Holy Spirit to heal and strengthen us.
As Jesus tells us, "take up my yoke and learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart. And you'll find rest for your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Mt 11:29). When we suffer, may we take up the wood of the Cross and to do His Will. We are called to take up our cross daily. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said that suffering is like "a kiss from God." God does not create the suffering to harm us but rather sometimes permits it so that a greater good may result. St. Peter reminds us that we may have for a time to suffer many trials but this is so that our faith which is more precious than gold, may be genuine and lead us to praise Jesus when He appears (1 Pt 1:7).
As we pray the Lord's Prayer, we say "Our Father Who art in Heaven ... Your Kingdom come, your Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven..." (Mt 6:9). May God's Will not mine be done. Or better yet, may our wills be transformed into that which God seeks. Then when asked, "were you there when they crucified my Lord?", we will be able to identify with our suffering Lord. As we pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy (given to St. Sister M. Faustina Kowalska, 1905–1938), "by His most sorrowful passion, may God have mercy on us, and on the whole world." Thus may we comfort others as our lives, faith, hope, love, and joy have been restored.
What do we do to alleviate the pain and suffering in our world? To stop the wars and violence in the world, we need to change our own hearts first and to forgive one another from the heart. We can ask which of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy is God asking me to do at the present moment. May we pray for one another and be generous to the sick and those in need. Finally, may God grant abundant miracles of healing the suffering so that they may praise God and share their renewed life and faith with their families and friends.
Beside the rivers of Babylon we thought about Jerusalem, and we sat down and cried. We hung our small harps on the willow trees.
It was for my own good that I had such hard times. But your love protected me from doom in the deep pit, and you turned your eyes away from my sins.
Fig trees may no longer bloom, or vineyards produce grapes; olive trees may be fruitless, and harvest time a failure; sheep pens may be empty, and cattle stalls vacant—but I will still celebrate because the LORD God saves me.
Jesus said to the woman, "You are now well because of your faith. May God give you peace! You are healed, and you will no longer be in pain."
John 19:1–3, 16–18, 26–30
Pilate gave orders for Jesus to be beaten with a whip. The soldiers made a crown out of thorn branches and put it on Jesus. Then they put a purple robe on him. They came up to him and said, "Hey, you king of the Jews!" They also hit him with their fists. ... Then Pilate handed Jesus over to be nailed to a cross. Jesus was taken away, and he carried his cross to a place known as "The Skull." In Aramaic this place is called "Golgotha." The place was probably given this name because it was near a large rock in the shape of a human skull. There Jesus was nailed to the cross, and on each side of him a man was also nailed to a cross. ... When Jesus saw his mother and his favorite disciple with her, he said to his mother, "This man is now your son." Then he said to the disciple, "She is now your mother." From then on, that disciple took her into his own home. Jesus knew that he had now finished his work. And in order to make the Scriptures come true, he said, "I am thirsty!" A jar of cheap wine was there. Someone then soaked a sponge with the wine and held it up to Jesus' mouth on the stem of a hyssop plant. After Jesus drank the wine, he said, "Everything is done!" He bowed his head and died.
2 Corinthians 1:7
You never disappoint us. You suffered as much as we did, and we know that you will be comforted as we were.
1 Peter 1:6–7
On that day you will be glad, even if you have to go through many hard trials for a while. Your faith will be like gold that has been tested in a fire. And these trials will prove that your faith is worth much more than gold that can be destroyed. They will show that you will be given praise and honor and glory when Jesus Christ returns.
1 Peter 4:19
If you suffer for obeying God, you must have complete faith in your faithful Creator and keep on doing right.
1 Peter 5:9
But you must resist the devil and stay strong in your faith. You know that all over the world the Lord's followers are suffering just as you are.
Don't worry about what you will suffer. The devil will throw some of you into jail, and you will be tested and made to suffer for ten days. But if you are faithful until you die, I will reward you with a glorious life.
He will wipe all tears from their eyes, and there will be no more death, suffering, crying, or pain. These things of the past are gone forever.
Take Lord, receive all my liberty, my memory, understanding, my entire will. Give me only your Love and your Grace; that's enough for me. Your Love and your Grace are enough for me.
—St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556). A well-known prayer.
No Cross, No Crown.
—William Penn (1644–1718). Title of pamphlet .
When a storm strikes a ship out at sea, the ship does not stop, does not struggle, but peacefully sails onward. Similarly when the storm in our soul rages, we should not struggle, we should not lose our peace, but turn toward the Immaculata and then go forward with absolute confidence. ... Suffering for love nourishes love. ... Whoever is capable of suffering much for love can be happy that his love is deep. ... Spiritual joy is born of sacrifice.
—St. Maximilian Kolbe. Aim Higher!: Spiritual and Marian reflections of St. Maximilian Kolbe. Prow Books / Franciscan Marytown Press.
... Striving with all our strength to correspond to the invitations of God's grace and increase his glory through the Immaculate Virgin in ourselves and in others, we sometimes experience the happy peace of a child who, having placed himself unreservedly into the hands of its mother, worries about nothing, fears nothing, ever trusting in the wisdom, goodness and strength of his mother. Sometimes it will happen that the tempest will be all-encompassing, lightning will strike and thunder will roar, but we who are totally in the hands of the Immaculata can be certain that nothing will harm us, as long as our heavenly Mother is with us and as long as she does not will it.
—St. Maximilian Kolbe. Will to Love—Reflections for Daily Living by St. Maximilian Kolbe, "Prophet of the Civilization of Love." Marytown Press.
As believers, how can we fail to see that abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are a terrible rejection of God's gift of life and love?
—Pope John Paul II (VIS—Vatican Information Service). With permission.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Father, send now Your Spirit over the earth. Let the Holy Spirit live in the hearts of all nations, that they may be preserved from degeneration, disasters and war. May the Lady of All Nations, who once was Mary, be our Advocate, Amen.
—Prayer attributed to Our Lady of All Nations given to visionary Ida Peerdeman on 11 February 1951. With permission of the Foundation "Lady of all Nations," Amsterdam.
Pressed thistle plant Gundelia tournefortii L.; collectors: E. Weinert & A. Mousawi, without collection number (Gray Herbarium), Adhaim, Iraq, 20 March 1973. The spiny leaves of this plant were likely used in the "crown of thorns" placed upon the head of Jesus (see Danin, A. et al. 1999).
(C) 2002 by Anthony R. Brach.