St Francis Q&A

Friday, March 31, 2006

Suffering leads to Glory

A Sunday school teacher asked her class, "What was Jesus' mother's name?"
One child answered, "Mary."
The teacher then asked, "Who knows what Jesus' father's name was?"
A little kid said, "Verge."
Confused, the teacher asked, "Where did you get that?"
The kid said, "Well, you know they are always talking about Verge n' Mary.''
We've been blogging quite a bit during Lent about the meaning of suffering, and it has been a fruitful time of reflection. The Christian meaning of suffering, as we have been discussing, is centered on the Cross of Christ which is the greatest sign of love in the world. Suffering for the sake of love, then, is the "greatest love" (Jn 15:13); Christ has shown us the way, and told us to follow Him. "If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me" (Lk 9:23).

There is great comfort in this life for those who unite themselves with Christ in their suffering; we have said that that is the greatest way to imitate Christ. Some of us struggle to accept this, for one reason or another. But, while there is great value in living the Way of the Cross, the Christian understanding of suffering does not end at the Cross. The Cross is not the end; Calvary leads us to an end which is good beyond human understanding. Calvary leads us to Paradise; suffering leads to Glory.

The fact that Christian suffering (sacrificial love) leads to glory is found throughout Sacred Scripture. "All that we suffer in the present time is nothing in comparison with the glory which is destined to be disclosed for us" (Rom 8:18). How is it that suffering will lead us to glory? St Paul writes that it's because we are "molded to the pattern of (God's) Son" (30), called by the Father to be united with the Cross of Christ. "Those he called, he justified, and those that he has justified he has brought into glory" (30).

We see practical examples every day of how suffering leads to glory. Athletes, as St Paul points out, "deny themselves all sorts of things. They do this to win a crown..." (1 Cor 9:24-25). Scientists and doctors endure much mental strain for the prize of a new discovery in technology or medicine. Many students labor through their homework each day and night to make the Honor Roll. And while these are all worthwhile and valuable endeavors, "they do this to win a crown of leaves that withers, but we a crown that is imperishable" (1 Cor 9:24-25).

So, what is this imperishable crown which suffering wins us? Eternal life. "The temporary, light burden of our hardships is earning us for ever an utterly, incomparable, eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor 4:17). Christ himself was glorified forever in his Death and Resurrection. Anyone who, like St Peter, is a "witness to the sufferings of Christ" will "have a share in the glory that is to be revealed" (1 Pet 5:1).

"In all truth I tell you, you will be weeping and wailing whie the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy" (Jn 16:20).


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