Monday, January 29, 2018

Why Suffering? - Feb. 4, 2018

The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

Reading I:  Job 7: 1-4, 6-7

Psalm:  147

Reading II:  1 Cor. 9:16-19, 22-23

Gospel:  Mark 1:29-39

Why suffering?
This is a question with which each generation struggles. Jesus does not answer it directly for us. Rather, He willingly embraces it Himself. He seeks to relieve suffering by healing people, showing compassion, and defending those in need.

The late Archbishop Joseph Cassidy of Tuam, Ireland, in his comments on this week’s readings, reflected on some current situations where suffering was undeserved and seemed so unnecessary, with harmful consequences. Nevertheless, he offered the following attempts to provide some light on the value of suffering, based on the Sacred Scriptures:  Christ cares.  Christ sharesChrist transforms

Christ cares. In today’s Gospel, we learn of Jesus healing the mother-in-law of Peter.  Then, we hear of Jesus curing many who are sick and driving out demons in others. We hear of Jesus standing up for the woman being stoned because she was caught in adultery. Since there was no consequence for the man who committed adultery, Jesus saw the injustice and protected her against it. Compassion was part of his very character.

Christ shares.  Then, we recall that Jesus accepted suffering on our behalf to save us from our sins. Jesus not only sympathized with our sufferings, but he willingly took them on himself. He is by our side as we suffer; we are not alone. He shares that suffering along with us. He didn’t deserve the suffering, just as many good people in our world do not deserve their suffering.

Christ transforms.  Our suffering can have value if we offer it with Jesus’ sacrifices. In addition, it can make us better people if we handle it well. In memory of their loved ones whom they have lost tragically, there are so many good things which have been done. Much of the outreach toward people in all kinds of painful situations is done by those who have experienced suffering themselves.

I can recall a comment of my mother, who was very lame. She had just experienced kindness and compassion from a young girl who had sat beside her on a bus. In recounting this incident for me, my mother’s comment was the following: “That young girl must have had a lot of suffering in her life; otherwise, she would not have been so very compassionate toward me.”  

Finally, the effects of the experience of suffering are up to us. It can either make us bitter or better.

 Reflection Question:   How can we handle suffering in a way that it will make us better people?

Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...

¿Por qué sufrir?

¿Por qué sufrir? Esta es una pregunta con la que cada generación lucha. Jesús no responde directamente por nosotros. Por el contrario, Él voluntariamente lo abraza a Sí mismo. Él busca aliviar el sufrimiento sanando a las personas, mostrando compasión y defendiendo a los necesitados.

El difunto arzobispo Joseph Cassidy de Tuam, Irlanda, en sus comentarios sobre las lecturas de esta semana, reflexionó sobre algunas situaciones actuales en las que el sufrimiento era inmerecido y parecía tan innecesario, con consecuencias perjudiciales. Sin embargo, ofreció los siguientes intentos para arrojar algo de luz sobre el valor del sufrimiento, basado en las Sagradas Escrituras: a Cristo le importa. Cristo comparte. Cristo se transforma.

A Cristo le importa.  En el Evangelio de hoy, aprendemos de Jesús sanando a la suegra de Pedro. Luego, escuchamos que Jesús curó a muchos que están enfermos y expulsó demonios en otros. Escuchamos que Jesús defendió a la mujer que estaba siendo apedreada porque la pillaron en adulterio. Como no hubo consecuencias para el hombre que cometió adulterio, Jesús vio la injusticia y la protegió contra ella. La compasión era parte de su mismo carácter.

Cristo comparte.  Entonces, recordamos que Jesús aceptó el sufrimiento en nuestro nombre para salvarnos de nuestros pecados. Jesús no solo simpatizó con nuestros sufrimientos, sino que se los tomó por sí mismo. Él está a nuestro lado mientras sufrimos; no estamos solos. Él comparte ese sufrimiento junto con nosotros. Él no merecía el sufrimiento, al igual que muchas buenas personas en nuestro mundo no merecen su sufrimiento.

Cristo se transforma.  Nuestro sufrimiento puede tener valor si lo
ofrecemos con los sacrificios de Jesús. Además, puede hacernos mejores personas si lo manejamos bien. En memoria de sus seres queridos que han perdido trágicamente, hay tantas cosas buenas que se han hecho. Gran parte del alcance hacia las personas en todo tipo de situaciones dolorosas es realizado por aquellos que han experimentado el sufrimiento ellos mismos.

Puedo recordar un comentario de mi madre, que era muy coja. Ella acababa de experimentar la bondad y la compasión de una niña que se había sentado a su lado en un autobús. Al contarme este incidente, el comentario de mi madre fue el siguiente: “Esa joven debe haber sufrido mucho en su vida; de lo contrario, ella no habría sido tan compasiva conmigo”.

Finalmente, los efectos de la experiencia del sufrimiento dependen de nosotros. Puede hacernos amargos o mejores.

 Pregunta de reflexión:   How can we handle suffering in a way that it will make us better people?


  1. What a beautiful reminder of God’s presence in the midst of our suffering. Thank you, Sr. Annette, for introducing us to Archbishop Cassidy’s insight: Christ cares, Christ shares, and Christ transforms. So often when we are in pain or when others are suffering we ask “why” God is allowing this to happen to us.
    We may lose sight of God’s nearness and doubt that he cares. However, God is affected by our suffering, mourning, and death. According to Henri Nouwen, “Jesus, the Blessed One, mourns. Jesus mourns when his friend Lazarus dies (see John 11:33-36); he mourns when he overlooks the city of Jerusalem, soon to be destroyed (see Luke 19:41-44). Jesus mourns over all losses and devastations that fill the human heart with pain. He grieves with those who grieve and sheds tears with those who cry.” God is not merely observing our suffering from a distance but is somehow in it with us and for us.”
    We see in the crucified Jesus the transformative significance of human pain and suffering. In his commentary on “Growing Closer and Going Deeper with God,” the late Pastor Rick Ferguson wrote, ”Suffering is God’s instrument for growth. We grow more in character and spirituality in the valleys of life, than we do on the mountaintops of life.”
    “Suffering of some sort seems to be the only thing strong enough to both destabilize and reveal our arrogance, our separateness, and our lack of compassion.” Fr. Richard Rohr writes, “I define suffering very simply as whenever you are not in control. Suffering is the most effective way whereby humans learn to trust, allow, and give up control to Another Source. I wish there were a different answer, but Jesus reveals on the cross both the path and the price of full transformation into the divine.”
    A synopsis of the book, “More Beautiful than Before; How Suffering Transform Us,” tells how author Rabbi Steve Leder guides his readers through the stages of pain: surviving, healing, and growing, to help them find meaning in suffering. Based on his experience as a spiritual leader and stories from his own life and those of others, he demonstrates that when we must endure, we can, and that there is a path for each of us that leads from pain to wisdom. “Pain cracks us open,” he writes. “It breaks us. But in the breaking, there is a new kind of wholeness.”
    Last spring when my mother fell and fractured her arm the question “why” was certainly on my mind. Upon discharge from the hospital she was transferred to a rehabilitation center where she met Eunice and Joan who were also recovering from falls. The three bonded quickly, supporting and encouraging each other. Mom returned home but Eunice and Joan moved into apartments at the facility. Mom visited them every month and kept in touch by telephone. Last night, mom called me in tears. Eunice died unexpectedly. She grieves the loss of her dear friend.
    Prior to her fall mom was fiercely independent and quite the loner. Her injury resulted in her opening up to and connecting with others for the first time since she was a teenager. She experienced a new life of sorts. Outsiders turned out to be angels and strangers turned into friends. She emerged a better version of herself.

    Beyond our personal experiences, suffering enables us to empathize with others who suffer. Having experienced God’s Presence and comfort during our illness or loss, we are able to offer that hope of Christ’s soothing presence when they suffer.
    In times of sickness and pain let us remember to seek the Lord and pray for the grace to persevere and endure our trial. Remember God loves us and He is working a design in our life beyond our understanding.
    Christ cares. He has promised to “never leave or forsake us” (Hebrews 13:5). Christ shares. God is with us and will give us His peace in the midst of our pain. Christ transforms. Our suffering will strengthen our faith and help us to remember what is truly important in life. Pat C., ASBS

  2. Sr. Therese M. Warner, SBSJanuary 30, 2018 at 8:58 AM

    Very true! We can hardly claim that suffering is pleasant or naturally desirable, but scripture reminds us that it does have
    very positive aspects.

    "The Lord is close to the broken-hearted, saves those whose
    spirit is crushed.
    Many are the troubles of the just, but the Lord delivers them
    all." (Psalm 34, 19-20).

    The reflections of Archbishop Cassidy about Our Lord's caring, sharing and transforming certainly are relevant and helpful. Thank you for presenting them, Sister.

    The following excerpts are from a homily by Father Charles Irwin, Diocese of Lansing:

    "If God is so good, why does He allow us to experience loss, terrible depression, and various disasters? Answering the question "why" gets us into long philosophical and theological discussions. Suffice it to say that God has chosen to put us into an incomplete world, living our own incomplete lives. But by His grace, we have the enormous dignity to be His co-operators, to work with Him while investing our own love and determination into His task of bringing ourselves and our world into complete holiness."

    "Job suffered; the saints suffered; Jesus Christ suffered; and so shall we. The question is, 'What are you going to do about it in your own heart and soul, and what are you going to do about it when it comes to removing it from the lives of others?'
    If we do nothing, then indeed, life will be uncaring, threatening, and overpowering... If, on the other hand, we enter deeply into the life and spirit of Jesus Christ, then we shall indeed have the power to face any and all evils, internal and external...Then we will have the power to cast out the worst of demons and reveal the presence of God's kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven."