Lent is a great time to reflect upon the value of our suffering and its power in our lives. The salvation of the world was not accomplished by any other means but precisely through the unimaginable suffering of Jesus, through the shedding of His blood throughout His Passion and His ultimate cruel death. Through the suffering and death of God made Man, it is worth reflecting upon and taking to heart what Saint Paul wrote, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for you, and for my part, in my body, I fill the deficiencies of Christ’s sufferings for the good of his Body, which is the Church.” (Col. 1:24) So it is truly worth remembering that each of us, also, through our own sufferings, can powerfully unite these sufferings with the sufferings of Christ and in doing so join as Saint Paul did in the salvation of the world and so build up Christ’s body the Church.
The amazing thing is that there is nothing more valuable in our lives, to show God our Love for Him, than our suffering, as we trust and surrender our lives throughout our pain, in whatever form it arrives, back to God, thus giving it value. Ultimately this will bring far far greater rewards beyond our comprehension. It is never our good deeds but our suffering that is of greatest value. This amazing revelation, taking place through the Passion of Jesus Christ through what was so far considered a punishment, what was most evil, has been transformed through Christ’s acceptance of suffering, into the greatest blessing for us all, into something most precious and ultimately our very own salvation. Here lies the great love and respect of the Church for the sick and permanently suffering people. Saint John Paul II spoke many wonderful words about this.
However, in order not to be accused of the cult of suffering (those who know me know perfectly well that I am a very happy and fulfilled person and this does not conflict with what I have written), a few additions.
Firstly, only the suffering that is made in love and lived in the spirit of Christ’s love has value. And secondly, suffering with the most salvific value, is above all unwanted suffering, that which is not the result of our will and beyond our control. The reasons may be different: illness, problems resulting from the imperfection of our character, internal pain caused by sin or weakness – suffering takes on multiple forms. On the other hand, suffering caused by a voluntarily made decision (fasting, etc.) is of much less value. Of course, it is worthwhile for everyone to find their own way of experiencing Lent. It is important, however, not to miss this period of opportunity, not to become fixated with giving up this or that, but to be clearly focused on the reason we offer to God these little sacrifices, which is to show our God our love and build up his Body the Church… thus realising the importance of these days for us as Catholics, as Christians.
Fr Ignacy Saniuta, is a Curate at Saint Eugene’s Cathedral and Chaplain to the Polish Community, Diocese of Derry.