How Suffering Can Glorify God
Jesus’ Church begins this 5th last week of Lent before Holy Week with Scriptures that speak of a new covenant where sin will be forgiven (Jer 31: 32-34), a creation of a new hearts containing God’s Law (Ps 51:3-15), obedience through suffering (Heb 5: 7-9), and a grain of wheat that dies and is fruitful (Jn 12: 20-33). What do all these have in common? They’re all made possible through Jesus Christ who came among us, and suffered and died on the cross in obedience to God’s will to save us from sin and eternal death. While Jesus had no sin, the Holy Spirit revealed that Jesus, “In His own body He brought your sins to the cross, so that all of us, dead to sin, could live in accord with God’s will. By His wounds you were healed.” (1 Pt 2:24) Jesus showed us that suffering brings glory to God when it’s endured for the sanctification of others.
Jesus signed a New Covenant between God and mankind in His blood in order to enable man and woman to enter Heaven. Its sign is the Holy Eucharist – the Sacrifice of the Mass, which Jesus ordained His Apostles to, “Do this in memory of me!” Through this Covenant God promised: “I will place my law within them and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God and they shall be my people. No longer will have to teach their friends and relatives how to know the Lord. All, from the least to the greatest, shall know me, says the Lord, for I will forgive their evildoing and remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah) People will be able to experience God’s presence in their hearts and not just in external observations. A covenant is personal agreement between two parties promising to give themselves to one another unconditionally. Those who enter it declare, “I am yours and you are mine.” A contract is different. It’s an agreement between two parties promising the exchange of goods a services. If you renege on the goods or the services the contract becomes void. But in a covenant, even if it’s broken through infidelity, it still exists and holds the parties accountable for their promises. God writes His law on people’s hearts through the power of the Holy Spirit who brings people to Jesus in whom they can meet God in the flesh. Jesus gave His Church the Sacraments of Baptism and Reconciliation so that man and woman could cleanse their hearts of sin. It’s in the forgiveness of sins that we know we’re being saved and made new. God’s people gain “a knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” (Lk 1:76-77) Thus the Lord made it possible for every man and woman to pray: “A clean heart create for me, O God, and a steadfast spirit renew with in me. Cast me not out from your presence, and Your Holy Spirit take not from me.” (Ps 51)
Jesus paid a steep price to make this possible. The Holy Spirit reveals: “Realize that you were delivered from the futile way of life … by Christ’s blood beyond all price: the blood of a spotless, unblemished Lamb.” (1 Pt 1:18-19) Jesus’ suffering was intense. “In the days when Christ Jesus was in the flesh, He offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to God, who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence. … He learned to obey through suffering … He became for all who obey Him the source of eternal salvation.” (Hebrews) Obedience always involves suffering in the sense that it requires sacrificing our will for the sake of submitting to another’s will. Pride and a lack of trust makes it hard for us to obey. This is why the Holy Spirit calls us to, “Rejoice in hope, be patient under trial, persevere in prayer.” (Rom 12:12) Suffering teaches us to seek consolation and healing which require us to trust and obey the healer or consoler. Jesus, in His suffering sought healing and consolation from His Father so He obeyed His instructions. Suffering brings glory to God when it causes us to turn to Him as our Father, to Jesus as our Saviour, and to the Holy Spirit as our Sanctifier and Advocate.
No normal person wants to suffer. Jesus didn’t want to suffer. But suffering is endemic in this world. Life is full of trials. To fear suffering is to fear life. There’s no life without suffering of some kind. How we let suffering affect us makes all the difference. Jesus framed His suffering and death as fruitful. “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” (John) He used His suffering and death to help others by making their salvation possible through His crucifixion, where He sacrificed Himself out of love for us. It was Jesus’ suffering in obedience to His Father’s plan to save mankind that glorified God and gave hope to mankind. Our suffering, if we choose to unite it with that of Jesus, will bring glory to God and help save others. If we don’t, our suffering will fill us with fear and bitterness.
Jesus reminds us that, “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honour who ever serves me.” (John) To be with Jesus is to be with the suffering – those who are poor, lonely, grieving, diseased, outcast, disrespected, imprisoned, sick, lost, and sinners. Being where Jesus is involves suffering because it requires sacrifice. But this suffering brings glory to God through following His Son and it’s honoured and blessed by God. To save mankind Jesus had to suffer and die in order to show that suffering and death are no longer a burden and a curse on mankind. Rather, if borne in union with Him, they are a means for glorifying God and saving our fellow men and women. Jesus promises that if we suffer and die with Him, we will rise with Him. (Jn 11:25) “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” Jesus gives a value to suffering, not that we should seek it but that when it comes we use it to make us, as well as others, better rather than bitter human beings. Easter shows that joining our suffering to that of Jesus guarantees the glory of Resurrection. May we use our suffering to more fully empathize with the suffering that Jesus underwent out of love for us. In the words of St. Patrick, may our prayer be: May “I constantly rejoice and glorify Your Name wherever I may be, both in prosperity and in adversity …(May) I might accept good and evil, always giving thanks to God.” (Confessions of St. Patrick) (frsos)
May all men model themselves on Happy St. Patrick and St. Joseph.
How Suffering Can Glorify God