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Redemptive Suffering

6th Tuesday of Easter (readings)

In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, Paul and Silas are beaten and chained. St John Chrysostom, reflecting on the punishment that Paul and Silas underwent, imagines them as lying on the ground, covered with wounds caused by this beating.

He contrasts this suffering with the way many people avoid anything which involves effort, discomfort or suffering; St Chrysostom says, “How we should weep over the disorders of our time! The apostles were subjected to the worst kinds of tribulation, and here we are, spending our time in search of pleasure and diversion. This pursuit of leisure and pleasure is the cause of our ruin. We do not see the value of suffering even the least injury or insult for love of Jesus Christ.”

“By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive passion.” (CCC 1505) The theological term that helps us remember this joining with Christ in his passion is called redemptive suffering. This is when, as my grandmother used to say, we offer it up.

When we suffer, we raise our minds and souls to God, to unite this suffering with that of Christ crucified. And with that raising up, we are simultaneously offering and sanctifying our suffering in this life.

It can be hard to do this especially when the suffering is so great so as to be overwhelming, but there’s a traditional prayer we can say every morning to help us; it’s called the Morning Offering. It goes like this:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, We offer You our prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass offered throughout the world, in reparation for our sins, for the intentions of all our relatives and friends, and in particular for the intentions of the pope. Amen.

In praying this Morning Offering each day, we can be certain that our suffering has value and is sanctified. And in turn, that we too are being sanctified by uniting ourselves with Christ and his passion.

To quote St. Thérèse of Lisieux, she says, “I understood that to become a saint one had to suffer much, to seek out always the most perfect thing to do, and to forget oneself… I do not want to be a saint by halves. I’m not afraid to suffer for You[, Lord]. [But] I fear only one thing: to keep my own will; so take [my will], for I choose [Yours]!”

Published inScriptural Reflections