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Chapter 29

The Suffering of Lent

 

Let us understand that God is a Physician,
and that suffering is a medicine for salvation,
not a punishment for damnation.
—St. Augustine

 

 

During the season of Lent we consider in particular the suffering and death of Christ, His painful Passion.  We learn from this the value and meaning of human suffering, problems and pain.  All that we go through that is painful, whether that suffering is mental, emotional, physical or spiritual, can be united to the Passion of Christ and made the means of our salvation.  In union with Jesus Christ Crucified, we can die to our selfishness and sin, our puffed-up pride and sensuality, our envy and jealously, our anger and self-pity by embracing the cross as a bitter remedy and medicine, a burning solvent, that dissolves, decreases and puts to death the “old man.”  Everything that goes against our will, our way, our hopes, dreams and fears takes away the obstacles to God’s grace flowing into our soul filling us full of true life and love in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Nothing is wasted, nothing is lost.  Every cross will be the loss of sin and the gain of God if we use it to our advantage, and for the good of those we may not even know.

For our sake God made him to be (the image of) sin who did not know sin, so that in him we might become the holiness of God.” (2 Cor. 5:21)  Although Christ could not be interiorly humiliated or feel ashamed, because He was already perfect and humble, the whole Passion of Christ, in itself, was completely shameful, painful, humiliating and degrading from beginning to end.  This is what needs to happen to the “old man.”  Our ego and pride needs to humiliated and crucified.  Our sinful passions and desires need to be mortified.  Our self-centered restless mind needs to be humbled, purified and put to rest in the presence of God by wearing a confusing confounding “crown of thorns” so that the “mind of Christ” can take its place. (1 Cor. 2:16)  The rebellious and selfish “flesh” (concupiscence) needs to be mortified and put to death by repeated scourgings and a final crucifixion.  “Those who are Christ’s, have crucified the flesh with its vices and desires.” (Gal. 5:24)  The whole “old man,” the life of sin within, needs to be crushed under the weight of the cross so that the “New Man,” the Life of Christ, may rise up and take its place.

We can abandon our cross for sin, use it to feed the self-pity and anger of the “old man,” grow hard and bitter and become worse, not better.  Or, we can carry our cross and accept it, embrace our cross and use it to die to our selfish will and desires, our sinful ways of thinking and doing, and become truly humble, wise and loving Christians.  If we accept our cross and embrace it, the cross will carry us closer to God who will lift it to a large degree, if not entirely, after we have been purified, purged and set free from sin to a degree known only to Him.

If people only knew the spiritual goldmine of grace, the outpouring of blessings, that can come from problems and pain, sorrow and suffering, they would run to embrace Christ on the cross.  Instead of running away from Him, they would accept their problems and pain and even praise and thank Him, despite their natural repugnance to doing so.  Then, Christ would embrace them and carry them mystically through His own Passion and pain right to a new spiritual resurrection after the death of the “old man.”  “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you, and your joy may be full.” (John 15:11)

Only God can truly do this in a way that is eternal—to bring good out of evil, the gain of grace out of the cross of pain and loss.  And this is the meaning of suffering.  United to Christ Crucified, it is the very means of our salvation.  “If we have died with him, then we shall live with him.  If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him.” (2 Tim. 2:11-12)

 

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