Suffering and Death in the Catholic Vision
Today’s second reading comes to us from the letter to the Hebrews. The author is unknown. One feature of it is the suffering of Jesus and a question that it answers is what is the purpose of suffering.
If there is one thing we cannot deal with it is suffering. One reason is there is nothing we can do about it for the most part. Hopefully, we can alleviate our suffering with medication but other forms of suffering are so painful either medication is not available or not a solution. Medication cannot help you with suffering that is not related to the body. Suffering related to a situation in your life or even a persecution you may suffer.
At times suffering is such that your only recourse is to call out to God and beg him to help you. This highlights something that we read here in Hebrews and other places. Jesus suffered on the cross for us, but he also suffered in other places. He suffered due to persecution, betrayal, rejection and so many other things. In fact, if Jesus is a man like us in all things but sin then he suffered bodily difficulties too. He may have sprained his ankle, he may have suffered a serious injury while acting as a carpenter and so many other issues.
Listen to this homily as it was delivered at St. Anthony Parish
Why did he suffer? It says right here and other places in order that he might learn obedience to the Father.
His suffering was so that he would come to rely totally on the Father, which he does.
Never forget that he understood suffering so much that he begged not to endure it when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. However, he endured it out of total obedience to the Father and total love for us.
When we are enduring suffering then we need to bring our suffering to prayer as well. Do not be afraid to be angry with God about what you suffer. After all, you are never angry with anyone with whom you have no relationship but you are angry most at times when things go wrong with those whom you love.
I always teach to bring your pain into your prayer and if it is possible and your frustration and anger are intense do not dismiss the idea of going somewhere long-off and isolated and screaming out your pain to God. Why because suffering is part of our existence and through suffering, we learn who we are in light of who God is.
This is also what Hebrews teaches.
There is an interesting line that follows outside of this passage. It is that Jesus frees us not only from death but the slavery caused by the fear of death.
Often I point out and as we enter into October, it is a central element of our culture: Hallowe’en and horror movies. Horror movies do not scare me. What is there to be afraid of. The main threat is of course then the monster comes and you will die. However, my response to that is ok but then I meet Jesus and go to His kingdom. There is nothing to be afraid of in these stories which makes horror movies hard to scare me. Those who have no understanding of Jesus can become subject to slavery to that fear. Jesus came to free us from it.
Jesus came to give us a whole new way of understanding the world around us and this changes everything. When we look at things through his eyes it also changes what has power over us and what we have power over.
Remember, I teach to follow the mask mandates not because the government tells us to do so, but in service to Christ that way we do not follow the governor because he is the governor, we follow the governor as a prayer to the Christ who calls us to live by reasonable rules of the governor. That is a whole different thing. If you want to fight the mask mandates, etc, you have to make sure that you are in fact doing God’s will first.
Part of our problems in the division of our country stems from not looking at a deeper understanding of our reality in light of what Christ calls us to do.
It becomes worse when we respond with human wisdom and not with the deeper wisdom Jesus wants to teach us.
Let me give you an example. This is also pro-life month and, as Catholics, we stand against abortion and all the industries connected to it. We stand against Euthanasia and all the industries connected to it, etc. There are major political moves to fight against the laws that promote abortion and euthanasia, etc. However, what is the real problem? It is a difference of understanding what it means to be human. We cannot address any life issue until we address that one. Why do we see things differently because we are working from an additional source of wisdom that those who fight us do not have?
One of those additional sources of wisdom teaches us that when money is the motivation for all we do our society cannot survive. It is only when love is the motivation. If we do not address that problem we cannot address anything else.
Our times lead us to focus on where Christ is leading us or to focus on where the political is leading us every step leads us to make a choice one way or the other and when we come to focus on Christ we walk down a more wise path and use that knowledge to teach a deeper understanding of whom we truly are. Sometimes that is quite a painful track but it bears much fruit.