In a fallen world there can be no communion without suffering. (1)
God will not give us more suffering than we can handle. All that we need to do is accept His grace.
Our suffering, united to the Lord’s Passion, will bring us into communion with Him. He suffered for love of us so that we might be saved.
When we unite our suffering to His, then we are suffering for love of Him and for love of our brothers and our sisters. Our suffering united with His Passion obtains a degree of the efficacy of His Passion. Our suffering united with His Passion helps other souls be saved.
There is a passage in the Diary of Saint Faustina where Mary visits Saint Faustina. Mary looked sad and downcast, and Saint Faustina begged Mary to speak with her. Finally Mary looked at Saint Faustina “with a warm smile and said, ‘You are going to experience certain sufferings because of an illness and the doctors; you will also suffer much because of the image, but do not be afraid of anything.’” (Diary, 316)
How many times when we are suffering do we wish Mary or Jesus would come to us and tell us the precise time when the suffering will end, or the exact reason why we are suffering, or how our suffering will help us or others be saved? But their message is much more simple, and if we trust with the eyes of faith, much more reassuring. Do not be afraid. We are not in control. Jesus is in control. We don’t know what’s going to happen, but Jesus knows what’s going to happen. We don’t know what’s best for us, but Jesus knows what’s best for us. We don’t know what we need to be happy, but Jesus knows what we need to be happy. We need Him! And even if we know it in our minds, our hearts go astray looking for happiness in a thousand other places. Eventually, we realize we can find it in nothing and no one but Him. And He is always there waiting for us to come back to Him.
Mary visits Saint Faustina again on Christmas Eve, 1934. Mary told Faustina, “I will share with you the secret of My happiness this night during Holy Mass.” During the offertory at Midnight Mass, Faustina saw “Jesus on the altar, incomparably beautiful. The whole time the Infant kept looking at everyone, stretching out His little hands.” (Diary, 346-347)
The secret of Mary’s joy is the Infant Jesus. The miracle of the Incarnation. The Son of God became a small, helpless baby to teach us humility. The Son of God became man so that humanity’s communion with God could be restored, and the price of that restoration was His suffering and death on the cross. We become like Him when we love like Him. We become like Him when we take up our crosses like Him.
Saint Faustina writes, “Suffering is the greatest treasure on earth; it purifies the soul. In suffering we learn who is our true friend.” (Diary, 342)
(1) The opening sentence is a paraphrase of a great quote from the theologian Matthew Levering, who said, “In a world gone wrong, there is no communion without sacrifice.” I encountered this quote in Bishop Robert Barron’s excellent book, Eucharist, which discusses the Holy Sacrament as sacred meal, sacrifice and Real Presence. I didn’t intend to misquote Levering when I started this post, but I didn’t correct it either. Not all suffering involves sacrifice, but all sacrifice involves suffering. And all suffering can be sacrificial when it is united with the Cross.
Image: Pieta by el Greco (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).