Dear Family of Faith,
What does Jesus think about suffering?
Jesus has two important thoughts about it. First, that here on earth there is no escape from it. Sometimes Christian preachers say that if we believe hard enough in Jesus, he will take away all our suffering. But Jesus never said that. Jesus told us that if we want to follow him, we will have to take up our cross every day. He told his Apostles not to be afraid of those who kill the body, but he didn’t say that no one would try to kill them. In fact, all of Christ’s first Apostles were martyred – except St. John the Evangelist, who miraculously survived being boiled in oil. Following Jesus will not save us from suffering in this life. That’s his first thought.
His second thought explains why he permits his followers to suffer. Suffering entered the world with sin, as St. Paul reminds us in the Second Reading. So to save us from suffering, Jesus would have to eliminate all sin, but that would mean eliminating all freedom, since sin is freely chosen rebellion against God. But eliminating freedom would also eliminate the possibility of experiencing and giving love – we would become God’s robots, instead of his children. So instead of eliminating suffering, Jesus transformed it, turning it into a channel of grace. Being faithful to his friendship even in the midst of opposition and suffering, will make that friendship grow. “Everyone who acknowledges me before others,” he explains, “I will acknowledge before my Father.”
In other words, by choosing to bear our sufferings as Christ bore his, with trust in God, patience, courage, and love, uniting our crosses to Christ’s cross, those sufferings actually become channels of wisdom, grace, and holiness, which are the fountains of happiness in this life and the life to come.