“Don’t look for sufferings but do not refuse them. Value them as precious marks of favor that He bestows on you.”St. Sebastion Valfre
How often have you opened a pretty package with a nice bow and found suffering nestled inside?
Not sure I would be excited to wake up Christmas morning or the day of my birthday to be handed a gift that contained sufferings. I don’t think any of us really look at suffering as a gift that causes joy to exuberate from within like a kid on Christmas morning at 4 am.
Is suffering a gift?
Many saints would answer that question with a big YES. St. Ignatius of Loyola said “if God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you and that He certainly intends to make you a saint.” St Faustina also called suffering a great grace and said that “the greater the suffering, the purer the love.” Several other saints, such as St Isidore and St. Louis de Monfort, speak of the joy and love granted to those who suffer.
If we go back over 2000 years ago, we would witness the greatest suffering that has taken place in our faith. That suffering aligns with the quote from St. Faustina, “the greater the suffering, the purer the love”.
What can we learn from Jesus’ last hours and our own suffering?
In the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary, we meditate on five types of suffering Jesus endured – emotional or mental, physical, humiliation, fatigue and death. Jesus undergoes each of them in less than 24 hours.
Garden of Gethsemane – emotional/mental suffering
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus undergoes a moment where the weight of all our sins causes so much distress he literally sweats blood. In this moment, Jesus prays for the Father’s Will to be done and he is strengthened to endure what lies ahead in his journey to the cross.
What can we learn from Jesus’ emotional suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane? Perhaps, we are invited to accept suffering and allow prayer to strengthen us in the midst of it.
Scourging – physical suffering
After Jesus was delivered to Pilate, Pilate had him scourged severely in hopes that the crowd would call it good enough and release Jesus. The scourging scene in the “Passion of the Christ”, produced by Mel Gibson was greatly influenced by the visions of Blessed Anne Emerich. In her visions, documented in “The Dolorous Passion,” she describes 3 types of scourging that resulted in extreme beating, penetrating the bone and ripping of the flesh in large pieces. Knowing the Father’s Will, Jesus submits fully to this horrific beaten.
What is Jesus revealing to us to help us to endure physical suffering? Is he inviting us to see what he has taken upon himself to unite our suffering to his?
Crowning of thorns – humiliation
Since the scourging wasn’t enough, the Roman soldiers thought it humorous to mock Jesus. They stripped him of his clothes, placed a scarlet military cloak on him, a crown of thorns on his head and a reed in his right hand while they spat in his face and kneeled before him. Jesus, the ultimate king, remained silent. Perhaps, in his silence, he was asking God to forgive them and praying for their stony hearts.
How is Jesus teaching us through this humiliation? Is he showing us how to think less of ourselves and more of others by restraining our anger? Is his silence an example to wipe out the pride that has a vice on our hearts?
Carrying the cross – fatigue
After being severely beaten and having lost a lot of blood, Jesus was forced to bear his cross. Jesus was likely severely dehydrated and had lost a lot of blood. His state of exhaustion was magnified as he carried this heavy cross, which weighed around 200-300 pounds. As he journeyed to his destination, he falls three times under the weight of the cross. He bears all the weight until Simon of Cyrene joins him and shares the load with him.
What can we learn from Jesus and Simon of Cyrene when we suffer from mental and/or physical fatigue? Perhaps, their journey teaches us to not give into sinfulness when we are fatigued? Or it may illustrate that we cannot always carry our crosses alone and should rely on Jesus to help us?
Crucifixion – death
Jesus’ final suffering in the sorrowful mysteries was the ultimate sacrifice of death as he was nailed to the cross. As Jesus was at his last hour, he does a number of things, he forgives, he provides a mother for his followers, and he converses with one of the prisoners beside him.
How is Jesus calling us to prepare for the final hour? Does he teach us to not be afraid? Is his example on the cross inviting us to forgive others, to make peace with those who have wronged us?
Jesus’ passion illustrates how difficult different types of suffering can be. It hurts physically and mentally. Sometimes it takes everything out of us by pushing us to our limits. What Jesus illustrates is a response in suffering which leads us closer to holiness.
I invite you to examine a time period when you were suffering. Would reflecting on Jesus’ suffering help you if you encounter this suffering or a similar form of suffering again? Would it shed light to journey with another in their suffering? How can you unite this suffering and any present or future suffering to Jesus’ suffering?
Suffering may not feel like a gift in the moment but I believe suffering results in a gift. In order to reveal the gift, we have to receive it and pull all the package material from the box. In other words, we have to be willing to learn what God is handing us in the form of suffering and unite our suffering to Jesus’ passion.
God gives us little bread crumbs in the midst of our suffering. Some will allow those bread crumbs to lead them, others will not. Those who follow them find beauty, grace and love.
Will you receive your suffering and “value them as precious marks of favor that He bestows on you”?