Hello friends. It’s been a few weeks since my last blog entry at the beginning of February. Since then, I’ve had the wonderful blessing of speaking to the friends of Catholic Radio station KEXS in Overland Park, Kansas and visiting EWTN to discuss some upcoming changes. We have already shared some with you including our new programming lineup and there are some I will save to announce later. The Holy Spirit seems to be moving our ministry in some very exciting new directions and I ask that you will pray for us to be docile to His promptings as we discern and move forward.
This week marks the 31st birthday of my deceased son, Simon. It is a bittersweet time for me and my daughters. Although, in many ways the pain of loss has lessened, there are still many moments in which my heart aches very deeply for both Simon and my husband Anthony. It is during these celebratory times that the pain is felt more acutely.
As a mother, I can’t help but to think of Our Lady, on the day when Simeon announced to her that her own heart would be pierced by a sword and she recognized the sacrifice that she would be called to make with her son. For Mary, this was another fiat in which she fully cooperated with the grace of the Holy Spirit and with docility, interiorly replied “let it be done unto me according your word.”
If God Loves Us, Why Does He Let Us Suffer?
But for us, the times of suffering and travail can be a time of questioning and doubt. If God loves us, why does He let us suffer? This is an age-old question, one that is asked by countless numbers of people in every generation. It is one which we will explore deeply in my newest Women of Grace Study Series entitled “Mending the Wounds of the Heart.” But as we continue on our Lenten journey and as I reflect on the pains of loss, I thought it might be helpful to provide a short teaching for those who may also be experiencing some kind of suffering this Lenten season.
Firstly, it important to remember what St. Paul tells us in Romans 8:28, “We know that in every thing God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” It was the fall of Adam and Even which brought sin and suffering into the world but here St. Paul tells us that suffering will be the instrument for man’s greatest hope. Just this news alone is crushing to the serpent in the garden. What He thought HE’D use to foil God’s plan for man – sin and suffering – God will use as the VERY means through which His love with triumph in the world. God will permit His Son to take upon Himself the sin of the world with all of its consequences including suffering, and nail it to the tree with Him. He will overcome sin and death, suffering and travail, selfishness and perversity!
We also hear in Isaiah 23: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed.” Really hear these words “By his stripes we are healed.” Jesus bore all of your affliction, all of your sorrow, all of your suffering. But not just to make it through, but to experience joy even in the midst of your grief, your sadness, you suffering.
Love Wins The Day
So, what happens here? Love wins the day. And what is the expression of that love? Suffering is the means that expresses it. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son that everyone who believed in Him might not perish but have life everlasting.” By investing divine life into the void of evil, God makes suffering a suitable instrument out of which He can work the greatest good – the salvation of mankind. Thus, God gives suffering a new purpose, a new value, a supernatural dimension through which great good can be worked in the world.
It is our baptism in Christ Jesus that makes this possible. Through our baptism we are incorporated into the paschal mystery. And what is the paschal mystery? It is the passion, death, and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Our baptismal grace is our entrance into this mystery of salvation and all the wonders it contains — including the capacity of our sufferings to be united to those of Christ and be used by Him for great good. Every suffering then, holds the promise of transformation if we will but unite it to the passion of Christ.
And herein lies the secret that all the great saints knew, a secret revealed to them in the depths of their own sufferings, pains, torments, and trials: that in the midst of the greatest difficulty, the greatest injustice, the greatest travail, we can suffer with Christ in His passion and work with Him to bring salvation to souls – our soul and the souls of others.
Now do we see the great gift given to us in every contradiction and trial. Now do we see the pearl of great price hidden in the horrid and ugly. Now do we see the shimmering grace veiled by the painful and sorrowful?
I have personally suffered great losses in my life. But in every case, I have seen the magnificent glory that can be ours when we seek to discover the joy that sometimes comes packaged in the dark garments of suffering. However, we must be receptive. We must be open. We must be willing to mine that treasury of grace waiting for us in the suffering. One of the greatest treasures is our own purification. In Zechariah13:9 we read: “I will bring one third through fire, and I will purify them as silver is refined, and I will test them as gold is tested. They shall call upon my name, and I will hear them. I will say, ‘they are my people,” and they will say, “The Lord is my God.”
God wants to purify us of all that holds us back from him, all that hinders our progress on the way to sanctification and holiness. He wants to remove the alloy of our lives that we might be that fire tried gold, made resilient in him and through him. Shining and gleaming with his glory. And one of the ways this takes place is by embracing the sufferings and trials we experience and permitting God to work in them and through them for our betterment and purification.
We are all going to suffer. The broken and fallen world in which we live assures us of that. But how we suffer, what we do with the suffering, that is what makes the difference. The great saints used their sufferings as a means of purgation and purification. Not waiting for the fires of purgatory to have their affect, they embraced the crosses entrusted to them and cooperated with grace to work out that process in this life. That is why the great saints rejoiced in suffering and regarded the greatest cross to be no cross at all.
Is it possible for us to adopt this vision of our own sufferings and trials? Could it be that God is permitting the wound of heart to remain so that we can come to this recognition and see the great gift that lies underneath this wrapping of travail? Can we, seek to acquire this supernatural vision?