Thursday, April 03, 2003

Facing up to the mystery of suffering: more wisdom from All God's People, my only post-1000 Lenten reading.....

Lent, too, also forces us again to face up to the mystery of suffering. We know, in faith, that suffering can be redemptive, if only we can find a way of uniting ourselves with Jesus in his own passion and death. Our faith tells us that our trials and hurts are not in vain. We cannot avoid them if we want to live fully, and thus there must be a positive and redemptive feature about them. The example I would like to point out in the Lenten season also is Mary. So often her sufferings are brought to our attention and might help us in analyzing and making sense out of our own situation. Mary suffered because she was so closely united to Jesus in love and affection as well as by parental bond. Her suffering was not the martyr's physical endurance test, but that of the one in love seeing the loved one suffer. To stand helplessly by and see another whom one loves suffer --- senselessly and unjustly --- is the deepest kind of suffering. We call that "compassion" --- to suffer with another. The Church sees its model in Mary. Thus we, as Christians, also have something to learn from Mary about what compassion and suffering mean.

First of all, we must learn, all of us, that being united in affection and love with Jesus is the basis of Christian discipleship. Because of that union we can have compassion when we meditate on his sufferings and death. Like Mary, we stand helplessly by.

One should, however, go one step further in this understanding of Mary's love and, thus, of her compassion. We know that Jesus accepted his cross and death because of his love for us. He had compassion on us. He identified, in love, with our human suffering and took it upon himself. So, if we are one with him in love and affection, we must also be one with every one of our suffering brothers and sisters whom he loves. Love of him, compassion on his sufferings, implies love of those he loves and compassion on their sufferings.

Mary, we know, became at that moment of his suffering our Mother. Jesus, dying, presented her to us. She is the model, then, of one who is united to our suffering as she was to her Son's. She is united to all whom he loves.

If Mary is the model of the Church, then what kind of Church must we be? Without doubt --- a compassionate one. Redemptive love is possible if we are united with the Redeemer. All of his suffering led to resurrection and the triumph of life over death. One with him in suffering (compassion) leads to one with him in resurrection. Jesus loved us so much as to suffer death for us. Mary, because she loved him so, suffered to see him suffer. She became our Mother and suffers, in love, for and with us. As model of the Church, she thus teaches us to be united, in our suffering, to Jesus in his suffering and in this way to all of those he loves. United with him in suffering we will be united with him in resurrection. A compassionate Church is a redeemed and loving Church.

[Rembert G. Weakland, O.S.B., All God's People, Paulist Press, 1985, pp.168-170]

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