Sunday, February 28, 2010

From now on suffering is linked to love

"In the Old Testament, God often shows His compassion and His tenderness towards man who is suffering. But the coming of the Saviour on earth marks in a more poignant fashion the solidarity of God with suffering humanity. The Gospel shows us Jesus ceaselessly bringing Himself near to the miseries of His contemporaries. Suffering moves Him, touches Him, upsets Him, sometimes to tears. Disregarding custom, we see Him go before the lepers, the untouchables of the time, to put His hands in their wounds and cure them. The suffering of hearts inspires profound compassion in Him, as in the scene of the widow of Naim weeping over the death of her only son. He draws all of those in pain towards His Heart open to all suffering: Come to me, all you that labor, and are burdened, and I will refresh you(Matt. 11: 28).

But God wished to go further: by becoming man, He put Himself also among the number of the suffering. Jesus wished to be born in a wretched stable; He worked hard to gain His daily bread; He knew hunger, thirst, the weariness of long journeys on foot (cf. John 4: 6); for three years, He did not have a home, not even a rock on which to rest His head (cf. Matt. 8: 20); He suffered the misunderstanding of men, their mockeries; they treated Him as a man given over to wine and good food. The truth and the depth of His fear of suffering appears particularly in the prayer in Gethsemani: My God, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me! In the passion, physical and mental pain reach their paroxysm. Finally, Our Lord wished to join man in the mystery of death. All men who suffer can say in facing the Crucified: "He too has suffered."

But if Jesus passed through the abyss of suffering, it was to transfigure it and give it a completely new dimension: from now on suffering is linked to love. If it remains a great evil in itself, suffering has become the most solid foundation of the essential possession of man, that is to say, eternal salvation. It permits us to be tied to Jesus in the work of the Redemption. A consequence of sin, it becomes, by the power of God, the means of our moral recovery."

-- From the spiritual letter of November 21, 1996, by Dom Antoine Marie, osb. Reproduced with permission through the kindness of Fr Jacques Marie, osb.

** Dom Antoine is a benedictine priest at Saint Joseph de Clairval Abbey in Flavigny.

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