Saturday, September 12, 2015


Not very often do I find things in parish bulletins that are worth remembering and keeping, except (in the case of Orthodox churches) the icon printed on the front of them. This morning, in the parish bulletin of a Roman Catholic church which was forwarded to me, I found some tidbits worth more than their weight in paper and ink. They are on the topic of suffering, and derive from the readings appointed for ‘the 24th Sunday of Regular Time’ which are: Isaiah 50:5-9a, Psalm 116:1-9, James 2:14-18, Galatians 6:14, and Mark 8:27-35. Here they are.

Try to avoid suffering.
When suffering is unavoidable, don’t let it scare you.
When suffering comes into your life, accept it with dignity.
Don’t let suffering get you off track of what you need to do in life.
Grapple in prayer with the suffering you cannot avoid, and offer it to God.
Forgive those who bring suffering into your life.
Try to reduce the suffering of others.

The Gospel makes it clear that…

The disciples had no idea that suffering would be part of discipleship.
Peter tried to talk Jesus out of suffering.
Jesus would not be taken off track.
When Jesus asks the disciples, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ He is including the reality of suffering as part of the question.
In order to find ourselves we must first deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Jesus.
Jesus does not expect us to seek suffering.
God will accompany us in our sufferings.

The last line above reminds me of a saying of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, that ‘when you are suffering, Christ has come very close to you.’

The other thought I had when reading these words was, remember the Buddha, who made out of his encounter with suffering the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, and eventually, through his followers, a new religious philosophy, one of liberation from suffering. His philosophy as originally stated seems to me to have no real place for God, yet it resulted in a religion where the help of gods, or at least of boddhisatvas (those who have attained release from suffering but remain accessible to those who have not, in order to help them), is still invoked.

Reading the ‘tidbits’ reaffirmed my hunch that though Christ calls us ‘to take up our cross, and follow’ Him, He does not ask us to run headlong into pain and suffering. We need not seek it; it will find us. And when it does, He is always with us.

ότι μεθ'ημών ο Θεός

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