Date: October 22, 2021
By: Ana Maria T.
Growing up as a non-practicing Catholic with little formation in the faith, I was familiar with Jesus’ Cross mostly as depicted in crucifixes. In that limited sense, I recognized Jesus’ Cross and had a vague idea of what His suffering meant. However, when as a teenager I came to know and encounter the person of Jesus, this recognition began to grow and expand into a living ‘knowledge’; a knowledge not merely of the intellect, but of the heart. As I came to know Christ, I came to know His Cross. And thus, mine.
Christ says that “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34). There is a cross that God wants me to carry. Growing in the understanding that my cross is given to me by God, has been, paradoxically, a fruit of that very cross. And a cause of profound gratitude. I cannot help but say, ‘thank you Jesus, for giving me my cross. For being you who gives it to me.’ It is not that God delights in my suffering and so wants me to delight in it too. As Saint John Paul II explains in Redemptive Suffering, God’s original plan for humanity never included suffering. He created the world out of His love and goodness, and all that He created, He affirmed as good. “God did not make death, and He does not delight in the death of the living. For He created all things so that they might exist” (Wisdom 2-13:14). All forms of suffering are a lack or distortion of a good – an “experience of an evil”, as Saint John Paul II puts it. Evil, and thus suffering, are the consequences which we feel because of the absence or distortion of a good. It pains us to be deprived of the fullness of that good, and so we experience suffering.
One of the reasons why we suffer is because of our own sins and the sins of others. Saint John Paul II explains that in this context, suffering can be seen as just punishment and as an invitation to seek conversion; to rebuild the good that has been damaged. When, by God’s grace, we are moved to repentance we may be more willing to accept this suffering. But what about when our suffering seems underserved and guiltless? When it is not the consequence of a fault? How willing are we then to accept Jesus’ invitation to “take up our cross” and follow Him? Without Love, this may seem and feel impossible.
It is only with Love that we can come to discover the true meaning of our cross and suffering. "For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). And what is eternal life but the absence of death, of suffering? Victorious over sin and death, Christ is the one who gives us hope beyond suffering. With Him, we can confidently face our cross. How wonderful is that! To discover that God wants us to find hope in our cross, and discover Him there.
Saint John Paul II beautifully says: “This is the meaning of suffering, which is truly supernatural and at the same time human. It is supernatural because it is rooted in the divine mystery of the Redemption of the world, and it is likewise deeply human, because in it, the person discovers himself, his own humanity, his own dignity, his own mission.” We each have a cross to carry. This is true for us all. Let us not be afraid to accept it. Let us heed to Jesus’ words and humbly deny ourselves. Deny not our suffering, but how much and how we think we should suffer. And instead, let us allow Jesus to be the one to show us. For it is only with Him and His Cross, that we can come to know and accept ours.
May we find hope and consolation in the saints who have suffered before us; especially Saint John Paull II and Saint Faustina Kowalska, whose feast days we celebrate this month. And above all, may we be strengthened by the One whose love conquered all suffering, and whose Cross has transformed ours. With Him, may we discover the life and freedom awaiting us there.
Saint John Paul II, Saint Faustina, pray for us!