Suffering as proof of true love
By Fr. Roy Cimagala
We have to be clear about this truth of our faith. If we truly have love, the love that comes from God and not just our own idea of love, we should be willing to suffer and die for our beloved who in the end is none other than God, and because of God, is also everybody else.
This truth of our faith can be gleaned from that gospel episode where Christ asked his disciples who he was. (cfr. Mt 16,13-23) A variety of answers were given by them, until Peter himself gave the right one. “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.” To this answer of Peter, Christ was so happy that he exclaimed:
“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father.” Then Christ proceeded to tell Peter about the founding of the Church, giving him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, such that whatever Peter would bind on earth will also be bound in heaven, and whatever he looses on earth will be loosed also in heaven.
But the more intriguing part of this gospel episode is that after this very dramatic exchanges between Christ and Peter, Christ proceeded to talk about his impending passion and death.
This part of the gospel narrative somehow tells us that for us to be with Christ, some suffering would be involved. Said in another way, suffering is a clear proof that we are with Christ and that we are truly in the dynamic of real love.
Thus, we all need to be reminded that all our suffering has a positive and favorable aspect. It’s not all entirely bad and negative, though in itself it will always be bad. But if viewed and lived through our Christian faith, there is something in it that can give us a greater good. We may refer to this advantageous aspect of suffering as the happy Good News or Gospel of Suffering.
We have to remind ourselves though that we are not actually meant to suffer. Our original as well as our ideal definitive state in heaven excludes suffering. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were in the state of original justice, where everything was in order and in harmony. No pain and suffering touched them, until they fell into sin.
And as the Book of Revelation would put it, in our definitive state of life in heaven “He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (21,4)
In this life, we have to expect and be prepared for the unavoidable pain and suffering. And this means that whether we are guilty or not of our pains and suffering, all we have to do is to go immediately to Christ who shows us how to handle our pains and suffering and who is ready to forgive us if ever we are deserving of suffering due to sin.
It’s true that God is always offended by our sin, and will somehow show his anger and disappointment to us. But let’s never forget that with him, anger would only be for a moment, while his mercy is forever. (cfr. Ps 30,5)
We should be quick to unite our suffering with that Christ on the cross, and thus convert our suffering as the very proof of real love!