We offer up our suffering by accepting Christ’s invitation to unite our suffering to His. Here is that invitation as relayed to us in the Gospel according to St. Matthew: Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (11:28-30). By suffering now for Christ we shall be glorified together with Him when the Spirit who dwells in us makes us also rise gloriously. This Lent, find the courage to suffer now for Christ by engaging in the traditional practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, on which our Lord spoke in the Gospel passage of Ash Wednesday. Our yoke “is necessarily very light or very heavy in proportion as one’s courage bears it or one’s cowardice drags it” (St. Teresa of St. Augustine, Martyr of Compiegne).
If we place our suffering in Christ’s hands, they are in far better hands than our own! At the beginning of Dante’s Divine Comedy, the character “Dante” gets cold feet about embarking on the great spiritual pilgrimage to the Beatific Vision. St. Paul was caught up to the third heaven (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2), Dante tells Virgil, and Aeneas went to the otherworld (cf. Aeneid, Book VI). But who am I, he says, I’m not Aeneas or Paul. They were destined for great things: Paul building the Church; Aeneas founding Rome.
Virgil’s reply is short and perceptive: “If I have understood your words aright/. . .your spirit has been bruised by cowardice.” (Inf. II - Esolen) The journey out of our assumptions and plans is something we all must make, one way or another. It’s the way that God made us and the world. How do you handle suffering? Placed in Christ’s hands, we can make sense of it in light of His plan for our eternity. Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32). This Lent, let us offer up our suffering!
David J. Conrad