Sunday, February 15, 2015

Another Look at Suffering

Three days ago I started reading meditations from the book Divine Intimacy, which came highly recommended by several people.

The meditations were written by Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D. who was a Discalced Carmelite priest. He had a deep knowledge of the spiritual life and how to grow in closer union with God. He was an expert on the spirituality of many Carmelite saints (St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross) and served as a spiritual director to many. The meditations in the book follow the Mass readings of the older, traditional Roman liturgial calendar.

The meditation for Quinquagesima Sunday, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, really hit home today. I thought I would share, mostly to record these thoughts for my own future reflections.

The meditation starts by discussing the sufferings of Christ's passion and the paradox of the cross: the fact that new life and our salvation came from the horrific suffering of Our Lord, which ended in his death on the cross, and resurrection on Easter Sunday. It also reflected on our sharing in Christ's sufferings through our own sufferings and trials. These sufferings serve to refine us and help us grow in holiness.

After reflecting on Christ crucified, what St. Paul called: "A stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles," (I Cor 1:23) the meditation turned it's focus to explain how we can make sense of this suffering. Both Christ's and our own. 

This is what really touched me, so I've included part of it below:

"It was not until after the descent of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles fully understood the meaning of the Passion; then, instead of being scandalized, they considered it the greatest honor to follow and preach Christ Crucified.

The human eye has not sufficient light to comprehend the value of the Cross; it needs a new light, the light of the Holy Spirit. It is not by chance that in today’s Gospel, immediately after the prediction of the passion, we find the healing of the blind man of Jericho. 

We are always somewhat blind when faced with the mystery of suffering; when it strikes us in what we hold most dear, it is easy to get lost and to grope our way like blind men through uncertainty and darkness. The Church invites us to repeat today the blind man’s prayer of faith: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

The world is often astonished at the sufferings of the good, and instead of encouraging them in their reliance on God, seeks to turn them from Him by urging them to defiance and false fear. Our passions themselves, our innate tendencies towards pleasure, often cry out to us and try, by a thousand pretexts, to prevent us from following Jesus Crucified. Let us remain steadfast in our faith, like the poor blind man. He was not disturbed by the crowd that tried to keep him from approaching Jesus, and he did not give up when the disciples remonstrated with him and wanted him to be quiet; he only shouted his prayer “even more loudly.”

Beautiful! ...and most certainly convicting!!!

What struck me first was the power of the coming of the Holy Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit that helped the apostles see the meaning of Christ's suffering, and eventually their participation in it, as they were huddled in the upper room on Pentecost. It is the Holy Spirit that can help me say yes to my cross even when I don't understand it.

Also, I am guilty of succumbing to blindness in the midst of trial. I tend to focus on myself and my pain. I listen to the world encouraging me to seek pleasure and not Christ. This is especially true of this past week, when in the midst of good news on the adoption front, I allowed myself to become engulfed in the darkness that is the pain of infertility.

There is so much to think about in this reflection. I think it will take awhile to unpack the gems within.

Here is the meditation's closing prayer, which is also beautiful:

"O my Jesus, the Cross is Your standard; I should be ashamed to ask to be delivered from it. From one evil only I ardently beg You to preserve me: from any deliberate sin, however slight. O Lord, I beg You by the merits of Your Sacred Passion to keep all sin far from me. But as for other evils--bodily or spiritual sufferings, physical pain or mental anguish--I beg Your light and strength: light to understand the hidden meaning which they have in the plans of Your divine Providence, light to believe firmly that every sorrow or trial, every pain or disappointment, is planned by You for my greater good; strength not to let myself be influenced by the false maxims of the world or led astray by the vain mirage of earthly happiness, strength to accept suffering of any kind with courage and love."

 - Mary Beth


  1. Suffering can be so tough and you are right...our society tells us not to suffer and do always have pleasure...which is not what God wants. He uses our suffering for the greater good...for others or for ourselves! Good post and great reflection. Great to hear you have positive news on the adoption front!

  2. That is beautiful, thank you so much for sharing. I know that I have been struggling with that lately. I haven't even had that much suffering lately, but there has been the fear that it will come back, and what will it be next time. The thing is, in this life, it will come back. It always does, and God will be in the midst of it, whatever that might be. I needed to be reminded of the prayer of the blind man. Praying for you!

  3. " ... light to believe firmly that every sorrow or trial, every pain or disappointment, is planned by You for my greater good ... "
    I need to memorize those words. So often, I am like you and focus only on my pain or the negatives and troubles in my life. It is so hard to look past that, but your reflection and post and especially the phrase above ... I must remember that it is for my greater good.
    Beautiful reflection!! :)