Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Suffering Mother

Sometimes a parishioner will ask for a copy of one of my daily sermons. I usually do not write them out, and have to go back in my mind to try to recapture something of what I said. The following is based on yesterday's proclamation:

Tuesday: September 15, 2015 –– 24th Week in Ordinary Time / Our Lady of Sorrows
Hebrews 5:7–9 / John 19:25–27 or Luke 2:33–35
The Suffering Mother

One of the big contrasts between “pop-Christianity” and historic, orthodox Catholicism is the issue of suffering. Many who claim Christian Faith (and we leave final judgment to God alone for all of us) have embraced a cliché: Jesus suffered so we won’t have to. This is worse than wrong. It is heresy. It is diabolical. It is at total odds with real Christian Faith.

There is a “theology of suffering” in the Scriptures that is unavoidably clear to anyone who will read and be open to the plain meaning of the text. Use an unabridged concordance (the old-fashioned way has certain advantages) to see the entries for “suffer” and “suffering.” Or if that is too much trouble, just look at two sources.

First, look at the First Letter of Peter:
For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (2:19–21)

But even if you do suffer for righteousness' sake, you will be blessed (3:14).

Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought…. (4:1)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God (4:12–16).

Is it so hard to get the point Peter is making as he writes to his Christian flock?

Second, consider the mother of Jesus, who the Church honors today especially by focusing on her sorrows. For all the joy Mary experienced in her intimate relationship with God (bearing and being the Mother of God since Jesus is God), she was subjected to deep suffering. Early in Jesus’ life Mary heard the prophecy of Simeon given to her: a sword will pierce through your own soul also Lu 2:35). As Mary stood at the foot of the cross she watched the agony and death of her only Son.

I know a little bit of what it means as a parent to hurt over the things that hurt my children and grandchildren. I don’t mean the agony of seeing them truly suffer and die, but merely the disappointments and hardships that a broken world throws in their path. I want so badly to be able to fix the things that give them grief.

And so I find, in the fullness of Catholic Faith, that Jesus has provided––through the Communion of Saints––a mother for us…. a mother who understands the suffering we feel because of a broken world.

We are invited to believe that God uses our pain to take into the depths of his heart and character. This means God can use suffering for our good. The hard things in this world remind us that this world is not all there is; we are not to live only for the here-and-now. When we hurt we are (lovingly) forced––if we are faithful––deeper and deeper in our trust in our Heavenly Father. We are to believe that suffering can change us so that we are more like Jesus.

When that happens, our Lord multiplies his grace through us even in others’ sufferings. This is what St Paul writes to the Corinthians: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2Cor 1:3-4).

If you are hurting today (and who of us does not face things in this world that hurt?!), know that we are part of the Body of Christ and we do not suffer alone. Know that Jesus works in and through suffering to save us. It was true even in the life of his mother.

No comments:

Site Meter