By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
One of the more meaningful and fulfilling parts of the Catholic doctrine that is not well developed in other Christian denominations is the incredible value of suffering. Sadly many Christians believe that Jesus suffered and died for us so that we would not have to suffer at all. While Jesus did suffer and die to save us and that the redeemed will one day have every tear wiped from their eyes, our path of salvation to the final, eternal reward in this life is to follow in His footsteps. Christ promised us that, if we are truly His disciples, we will suffer just as He did. Suffering for a Catholic is never meaningless; it is always meant for the sanctification of our souls and to prepare us for heaven, no matter what form it takes: sickness, financial troubles, emotional turmoil, family strife, religious persecution, natural disasters, government oppression and so on. Whether we will it or not, we must suffer. There are some who suffer like the good thief, others like the bad thief. They both suffer equally. Only one knew how to make his suffering meritorious and accept them in spirit of reparation. Jesus said to him, “This day you will be with Me in Paradise.” The other, on the contrary, cried out, uttered blasphemies, and expired in the most frightful despair. There are two ways of suffering: Suffering with love and suffering without love. The saints suffered everything with joy and patience, because they loved. We suffer with anger, because we do not love. If we loved God, we should love crosses and be happy to be able to suffer for the love of Him who lovingly suffered for us. The Cross is consoling! But, we must love while we suffer, and suffer while we love. On the Way to the Cross, only the first step is painful.
Our greater Cross is the fear of Crosses. Most men turn their backs to Crosses. The more they run, the more the Cross pursues them. He who goes out to meet the Cross and embraces it courageously is purified and detached from this world. The Christian lives in the midst of Crosses as the fish lives in the sea. When the good God sends us Crosses, we resist, we complain, we murmur and we are so adverse to whatever contradicts us that we want to be always in a box of cotton, but we ought to be put into a box of thorns. It is by the Cross that we will go to heaven. Illness, temptations and troubles are so many Crosses which will take us to Heaven. Our Lord is our model. Let us take up the Cross and follow Him who has gone before us. The Cross is the ladder to Heaven. The Cross gave peace to the world; it must bring peace to our hearts. Nothing makes us more like our Lord than carrying His Cross. We must never question where our Crosses come from. They come from God. It is always God who is giving us this way of proving our love for Him. One of the greatest gifts in Heaven’s treasury is an understanding of the Way of the Cross, a love for trials and sufferings. If we could just spend a week in heaven we should understand the value of our moments in suffering.