Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Jesus Changes Our Minds About Suffering

March 24, 2015
Tuesday of the 5th week of Lent

Jesus Changes Our Minds About Suffering
“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and whoever looks at it after being bitten will live.

People get angry with God when he lets them suffer. And can we blame them? Have you seen a loved one die—especially a little child? We sometimes complain even when God lets minor things go wrong in our life. Jesus changes this.

The ultimate answer to suffering is to look at Jesus on the cross. God the Father let this happen to his own Son. Not only that; he sent his Son to earth knowing it would happen. And Mary, his mother, had to stand at the foot of the cross and say, “Let it be done to him according to your word!” She had to do more than accept his crucifixion; she had to actually offer up her Son to torture and death in union with his will and the Father’s. How could any mother do that?

How could God the Father do it?

The answer to that question is the answer to all our complaints and to all our anger against God, if we are willing to accept it. The one-word answer is “Love.”

The Father let his Son die out of love for us. So did his mother. And all the pain and suffering in the world is turned into good if we accept it with love.

No one says that is easy. No one says it is even possible without faith. And even with faith we need to have a hope that is divine, not just human. But God gives us the faith and hope that empower us to love: to love God, ourselves and others as Jesus himself has loved us (John 13:34; 15:12). To love like this is to share in Jesus’ own act of loving. It is to unite ourselves with Jesus on the cross. And we are invited to do that in every Mass.

When the host—the Body of Christ—is “lifted up” at the moment of consecration and elevation during the Eucharistic Prayer, the response we are called to make is not just “My Lord and my God!”—good and holy as that act of adoration is. At that moment we are called to enter into the action made present before our eyes, and to say with Jesus—with him, in him and through him—“This is my body, given up for you.” Given up in surrender to the Father with Jesus saying, “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42); given up as a “living sacrifice” for every human being on earth: family, friends and foes alike (Romans 12:1); our bodies given up, with all we can do, express or suffer in them, as Jesus gave up his body on the cross and is giving up his body in the Mass: our “flesh for the life of the world” (John 6:51).

This is to love one another as Jesus has loved us. And it is impossible unless we love with, in and through Jesus giving himself on the cross. It is divine love, and we can only give it by sharing in the divine life—and death—of him who was “lifted up” in answer to all the sin and suffering of the world.

Jesus was prefigured in the “saraph serpent mounted on a pole.” Whoever “looks at him after being bitten” with pain and suffering “will live.”

Jesus’ crucifixion, for those who have eyes to see, was the ultimate revelation of his divinity during his earthly life. It was a revelation of love and surrender to God that could only be divine.

When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.

Jesus on the cross changes our perception of pain. He does not diminish it, but gives it a meaning and value that are divine. And just as we, who were consecrated “priests in the Priest” at Baptism, participate in transforming the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ at Mass, so, by the same priesthood, we transform pain and suffering into love by offering ourselves as “victims in the Victim” with Jesus lifted up on the cross at Mass.

Do I choose to let Jesus change my mind about pain and suffering?

Pray: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).

Practice: Every time you see or experience pain or suffering, ask how you can change it into love.

Discuss: What does it mean to transform suffering into love?

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