At the core of Franciscan spirituality is this striving to enter into the divine heart to feel the pathos of suffering love that God feels for the world. Francis’s striving to identify with the crucified Christ was not meant to be a spiritual absorption into suffering for its own sake and should not be construed as a masochistic sanctification of pain. Rather, Francis sought to know God by abiding with God in the passion. Francis embodied and illuminated the words of St. Paul, who wrote: “In my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions” (Col 1:24). Francis believed that if we claim to be the body of Christ, we are called to participate in the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We are called to die and be raised again in new life, not just at the end of our life but in each moment of our discipleship journey. Francis accompanies us in following Jesus in the way of the cross, the way of active love on behalf of the crucified of the world.
Those who habitual seek to avoid all pain and experience only what is pleasant and comfortable, will sooner or later find themselves carrying far heavier crosses than those who try to consent to sufferings it would be unrealistic to try to eliminate.
One of the most common complaints I hear on a regular basis begins with the phrase, “The Church isn’t doing enough for…” and you can fill in the blank a million ways. The Church isn’t doing enough for engaged couples preparing for marriage. The Church isn’t doing enough for the poor. The Church isn’t doing enough for married couples who are struggling, and of course, the one I hear the most is, “The Church isn’t doing enough for divorced Catholics.” So, I just have one question in response… who do you think the Church is?
We are the Church. We, alongside Pope Francis and the cardinals and bishops, the priests and deacons and religious, are the Church – the everyday Catholics in the pew. Why isn’t the Church reaching a strong and powerful hand out to the niche groups we all see are suffering? Well, the hierarchy is. You may have noticed a little Synod on the Family going on in Rome these past weeks. But for complaints and cries and calls for action that are heard, what are we complainers doing to help?
His [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][St. Francis] assiduous meditation urged him to give her an astonishing title; he would recall how Mary lived on alms for many periods of her life, so he named her the “little poor one,” the “Poverella.” If we remember the real conditions of her life, her frequent traveling and moving, we will realize to what extent her life was poor, itinerant, suffering. Though queen in the eyes of God, she was the Wife of a humble carpenter and lived in a remote and despised village. By this example she teaches us to put our values not in a place or in a function, but in inner dispositions.
~ Benet A. Fonck, OFM, Called to Follow Christ: Commentary on the Secular Franciscan Rule (SFO Resource Library, Vol. 1)[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]
As Christians, if we are to love as Jesus loved, we must first come to terms with suffering. Like Jesus, simply cannot be cool and detached from our fellow human beings. Our years of living as Christians will be years of suffering for and with other people. Like Jesus, we will love others only if we walk with them in the valley of darkness – the dark valley of sickness, the dark valley of moral dilemmas, the dark valley of oppressive structures and diminished rights.
Job, I came to see, is the model of what an Italian biblical scholar has called “the believer who loves the true God in himself and for himself, without ulterior motives”—and does so precisely along the dark path of suffering. It is Job, sitting amidst misery, who rejects his friends’ calculating, facile suggestions about why bad things happen to good people. It is Job who, in the end, refuses to cram the divine will and purpose onto the procrustean bed of human wisdom. It is Job who, finally, lets God be God—and who, by admitting that he is not the artisan of his own existence, makes a deeper act of faith in the God whose divine “logic” in beyond anything human minds can grasp.
The Christian doctrine of suffering explains, I believe, a very curious fact about the world we live in. The settled happiness and security which We all desire, God withholds from us by the very nature of the World: but joy, pleasure, and merriment He has scattered broadcast. We are never safe, but we have plenty of fun, and some ecstasy. It is not hard to see why. The security we crave would teach us to rest our hearts in this world and pose an obstacle to our return to God: a few moments of happy love, a landscape, a symphony, a merry meeting with our friends, a bathe or a football match, have no such tendency. Our Father refreshes us on the journey with some pleasant inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home.
What really hurts is not so much suffering itself as the fear of suffering. If welcomed trustingly and peacefully, suffering makes us grow. It matures and trains us, purifies us, teaches us to love unselfishly, makes us poor in heart, humble, gentle, and compassionate toward our neighbor. Fear of suffering, on the other hand, hardens us in self-protective, defensive attitudes, and often leads us to make irrational choices with disastrous consequences.
By accepting the sufferings “offered” by life and allowed by God for our progress and purification, we spare ourselves much harder ones. We need to develop this kind of realism and, once and for all, stop dreaming of a life without suffering or conflict. That is the life of heaven, not earth. We must take up our cross and follow Christ courageously every day; the bitterness of that cross will sooner or later be transformed into sweetness.
Today there is an inescapable duty to make ourselves the neighbor of every man, no matter who he is, and if we meet him, to come to his aid in a positive way, whether he is an aged person abandoned by all, a foreign worker despised without reason, a refugee, an illegitimate child wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a starving human being who awakens our conscience by calling to mind the words of Christ: ‘As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’.