Thursday, September 27, 2007


Suffering, be it of body or soul, of heart or mind, is the lot of all men here below; as the Cross, its noblest symbol, was scandal for some, folly for others, so is suffering today. From a purely natural point of view, pain appears as an enemy to be dreaded; supernaturally speaking, it is a means of salvation and sanctification. To help us accept it and to carry our cross patiently, if not willingly, we have the example of Christ in His Passion. We will ask him to make us understand the true sense of suffering and to love the Cross. The Cross was the climax of the Saviour's work on earth; it completed the sacrifice by which He glorified His Father, saved us men, and opened for us the sources of grace. Knowing well every torment of soul and body that awaited Him, He accepted them all. His Passion is unfathomable, even in it smallest details, all of which were foretold by psalmist and prophet, and of which the last was fulfilled when Jesus cried: "I thirst!". It was by His Passion and death that Christ reached His resurrection and glory. Since then, suffering, far from being merely a punishment for sin, is a blessing and a grace. Christ himself tells us: "A grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die, or else it remains nothing more than a grain of wheat; but if it dies, then it yields rich fruit." (John 12: 24)
In proportion as we, by self-denial and mortification, diminish the obstacles that hinder our spiritual growth, our lives become richer. Christ tells us that God sends us suffering to attain that end. "I am the true vine, and it is my Father who tends it. The branch that yields no fruit in me, he cuts away; the branch that does yield the fruit, he trims clean, so that it may yield more fruit....My Father's name has been glorified, if you yield abundant fruit."(John 15: 1,2,8). When God sees a soul united to Christ by sanctifying grace and consecrated to him, he takes the spiritual conduct of that soul into his own hands. By suffering and humiliation, he cuts away the branches that bear no fruit, and prunes the others of all that is superfluous. Nothing should therefore dishearten us, neither trials nor temptations. The nearer a soul is to God, the heavier its trials may be; Jesus himself followed that road. His disciples and brides must follow him if they would be like him. St.Paul says that all the science of the interior life may be reduced to "the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and of him as crucified" (1 Cor: 2. 2). When the Father prunes His vine, His hand seems heavy, even to his saints, who are reduced to cry Him mercy. He tries them by the temptations He permits, by the adversities He sends, and sometimes by a cruel sensation of loneliness and abandonment. Happy those who allow Him to work His will on them, and to make them more like their Master. There is often so much that is human in our prayers and good works that our progress is hesitating and slow. It would be more rapid if we yielded ourselves to God's conduct. If the father sends us the cross, with all its pain and suffering, we will take it from his hand, willingly and thankfully, saying with St. Paul,"I am glad of my suffering....I help to pay off the debt which the afflictions of Christ still leave to be paid, for the sake of His body, the Church."(Col. 1.24). Teresa of Avila sighed without ceasing, "Let me suffer or die; give me the Cross or death". Other saints seemed it a grace to suffer for Jesus' sake; a grace of which they knew themselves unworthy.

O, Jesus, give us strength to bear to the end whatever cross you send us. As you yourself by your Passion and death entered into the glory, so we hope by suffering to gain eternal life. We adore Thee, O Christ, and we bless Thee, because by Thy Holy Cross Thou hast redeemed the world! Sorrowful Mother, make us strong as thou wert!

Meditation after "With the Church" by Fr M. Goossens