Suffering with a Smile – God Loves a Cheerful Giver
Suffering with a Smile – God Loves a Cheerful Giver
Our Lady of Fatima (Week 4 of 8)
And Francisco! What a comfort he was! He seemed not only to accept suffering, but to love it, as the saints do who follow in the footsteps of the Crucified. “Our Lady told us we would have much to suffer,” he would say. “That doesn’t matter to me, I will suffer everything as much as she wants!” Or when Lucia was on the verge of tears, thinking of the ill-treatment she was receiving at home and abroad, he said, “Never mind! Didn’t Our Lady say we should have much to suffer?” And Lucia took heart again. — Our Lady of Fatima (Chapter 6, Paragraph 61)
This Holy Week, as we accompany Our Lord through His Passion, let us contemplate the joy and enthusiasm with which this eight year old boy sought to carry the cross. Granted, he was given an amazing gift in seeing Our Lady and knowing that she asked the children to offer their sufferings for the redemption of poor sinners. But Oh, the JOY!
Would that I might so rejoice in my sufferings. Why is it that I am so unwilling to walk with Christ Crucified? You could argue that I wasn’t there. That it was much easier for the apostles, who witnessed the crucifixion; or for Francisco, who actually saw Our Lady.
But when you put it to the test, isn’t that a pretty lame excuse? After all, Lucia not only saw Our Lady, but heard her as well. And yet, she clearly needed Francisco’s encouragement to be at peace in her own suffering.
The apostles, too, witnessed Christ’s miracles; they walked with Him; they talked with Him. No doubt they were profoundly moved by Him, particularly Peter, James and John, who witnessed His Transfiguration. And yet, Peter denied Christ three times and abandoned Him on the cross.
The truth is that we have been given powerful guidance through the Holy Spirit, untold grace through the Sacraments, and the witness of thousands of saints throughout over 2,000 years of history. Frankly, we are in an amazing position to believe. And to live according to those beliefs. To argue otherwise serves merely to make excuses. Because in truth, we do believe.
Or perhaps I should speak for myself. I absolutely believe there is a God. I believe that Christ died for my sins. I am in awe of the mystery of His body that invites me to carry my cross, unite my suffering to His, and, as Saint Paul put it, “rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His body, that is, the church…” (Colossians 1:24). I KNOW all this. I BELIEVE all this. I spend much time contemplating the beauty that is our Church – the Church founded on Peter – that teaches her children all these things in order that we might realize that our suffering can have meaning and purpose.
And yet.. I FAIL to rejoice. I fail to offer my suffering for the salvation of the World.
I realize that I am weak. That I am in great need of God’s grace in order to suffer “grace-fully.” But I am also in need of a community that encourages me. Just as Francisco encouraged Lucia.
These days, when we are feeling low or struggling to carry our crosses, we look around for support, only to face a culture that diminishes the value of the cross. A culture that denies the cross. Crosses are difficult enough to bear. But to be told that we needn’t carry them? That they are a burden that can be dropped at the door of worldly pleasure? This makes bearing our crosses even more difficult. And rejoicing in them? Nearly impossible.
The culture that once acknowledged the value of suffering and its relationship to the Will of God has been lost somewhere between the health and wealth gospel where suffering need not exist for those who have faith and the world of relativism where there is no truth and therefore can be no meaning, in which case suffering must be avoided at all costs.
There was a time when the majority of people did ascribe God’s Will to all things. Call it foolish nostalgia; but it seems to me that there was much more peace and joy to be found in days gone by. In the worst of times, there is something comforting about the idea that suffering can have meaning and can even be a gift from God.
If there’s one thing in life we are not going to avoid, it’s suffering. Take heart. Not only for the Children of Fatima, but for us, too, suffering can be a great gift. Christ promises that our suffering, when united to His own and offered for the salvation of the world, will reap great rewards. A gift from Our Lord to us, can become a gift from us back to Our Lord.
This week calls special attention to this beautiful arrangement. Through Holy Week, we are given the opportunity to walk with Our Lord through His Passion. To carry His cross; to die with Him, and by virtue of our baptism, to rise again with him on Easter Sunday. This week, let us embrace our sufferings in a special way; and to remember that we are called to embrace them every week, every day, even every moment.
When we contemplate the Cross on Good Friday, let us remember to do our part in re-establishing a culture that values the gift of suffering in a beautiful way. A culture that recognizes that every Good Friday will lead to an Easter Morning. Let us embrace our own suffering as a means to an end, rather than as an unnecessary distraction. The difference between ourselves and those saints who joyfully accepted suffering in love? An act of the will. This is a good week to contemplate our choices. Let us choose to offer our suffering as a gift. And we all know, God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
1. Is there a gift you’ve been fighting that perhaps you can accept and offer as a sacrifice to Our Lord? Can you make a special effort this week to unite your suffering to His in a joyful manner?
2. Feel free to comment on anything from our assignment this past week!
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