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A Treasury of Arkansas Writers Discussing the Catholic Faith
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: April 6, 2019
By Kelli Nugent
St. Edward Church, Texarkana
How often do we wonder and ask the question, “Why?” Why did this happen to me, to my family, to those I love? How could God allow something like this to happen? We live in a fallen world, redeemed though we may be through baptism, our lives are full of struggle and joy, drudgery and hope and all the experiences in between, at times, very difficult things. Each of us can name those present to us: disease, pain, trauma, broken relationships.
In a particularly difficult time in my life, heading toward a divorce I did not want, seeing my marriage disintegrate like a slow train wreck, when the effects of original sin were so clearly present, it was my sister who told me that I was on the cross. I hadn’t even made the connection, but those words grounded my experience concretely in the passion of our Lord. I do not want to imply that I had no responsibility for the failure of my marriage; sadly, I do and did.
He allows (suffering) as something that may bring us to our knees, but even more so to bring us closer to the Divine, to move us forward, out of our inertia — physical and spiritual — to cause a change and growth in us that leads to the Resurrection which only comes after the cross.
Some of the effects of original sin are: In man the soul’s spiritual faculties over his own body are broken, one’s friendship with God is severed; and our relationships with others are not rightly ordered, but disordered. And so we suffer. How difficult it is to suffer. But it must be even more difficult without a purpose. “… (Jesus) said to all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23)
We follow the Suffering Servant who is a crucified Messiah. This touches on the mystery of redemptive suffering. As it states in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 1505), “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.”
By making an act of the will, we can join our suffering to that of Christ and turn it into an offering. Use the sufferings that beset us for a purpose, offering it for the needs, as a type of prayer, for others or ourselves. Let us not waste our suffering.
When we join our sufferings to Christ, it does not mean that we should not strive, using the means at our disposal, to alleviate our suffering and to try to overcome or change the situations that bring us the crosses we bear. It is normal and natural to want to do that and suffering was not a part of God’s original plan. We should do what we can to address them.
How difficult it may be for us to see the crosses, difficulties and pain in our lives as a type of gift from God. He allows it as something that may bring us to our knees, but even more so to bring us closer to the Divine, to move us forward, out of our inertia — physical and spiritual — to cause a change and growth in us that leads to the Resurrection which only comes after the cross.
Let us reflect on these words of wisdom from St. Francis de Sales: “The everlasting God has, in his wisdom, foreseen from eternity the cross he now presents to you as a gift from his inmost heart. This cross he now sends you he has gazed at with his all-knowing eyes, understood with his divine mind, tested with his divine justice, warmed with his loving arms and weighed with his own hands, to see that it be not one inch too large, not one ounce too heavy for you.
“He has blessed it with his holy name, anointed it with his grace, perfumed it with his consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and sent it to you from heaven — a special greeting from God to you — an alms of the all-merciful love of God.”
God uses all things to his purposes. He alone sees the entire picture of history, but even more importantly, of each individual beloved life that he created which is destined for eternity. Suffering and various types of crosses will come our way in this fallen world. Shall we use them for good or simply endure them?