Saturday, 2 November 2013


The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mt 26:41)

It is easy to speculate about the purpose of suffering when one is feeling well, but in the midst of pain most of us find speculation impossible.  And yet as Elisabeth Leseur says (in the February 2014 issue of Magnificat), "Suffering is the great law of the spiritual world. God’s chosen ones escape it less than others; they pay the ransom for others, sometimes at a very high price. We will know only later the work accomplished by our suffering and our sacrifices. It all goes to the heart of God, and there, joined to the redemptive treasure, it expands in souls in the form of grace. We can convert, sanctify, console without going out of our home or out of ourselves."

Suffering is often the "price" we pay in advance for a grace that will come later. If that seems crude, remember that the law of exchange, justice, and balance is rooted in the very depths of divine justice. Not everything can be mercy. The pattern is established on the Cross, where our suffering is not merely imaged, but incorporated and integrated. The Cross is both Mercy and Justice. It is Justice because sin has destroyed order, and the restoration of order requires nothing less than the sacrifice of a perfect man, a sacrifice that makes up for everything that had been lost. It is Mercy, because the perfect man is also God, and therefore the payment does not merely make up what was lost, but infinitely more. Mercy is the gift of God's own self, his love. "It is love which not only creates the good but also grants participation in the very life of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For he who loves desires to give himself" (Dives in Misericordia, n. 7). Thus the balance between Mercy and Justice is established on the basis of the Hypostatic Union, the union of divine and human natures.

If we must learn to die to our false self to live in Christ, then suffering is the best way. The old self wants anything but suffering and pain. The new self, the true self, wants only the will of God.

Illustration: St Francis receives the Stigmata of Christ, by Giotto.

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