The Gospel of Suffering

for April 18th, 2014
Good Friday

Liturgical texts here



YOU may have noticed in several writings, lately, the theme of “springs of living water” flowing from within the soul of a believer. Most dramatic is the ‘promise’ of a coming “Blessing” that I wrote about this week in The Convergence and the Blessing.

But as we meditate upon the Cross today, I want to speak of one more wellspring of living water, one that even now can flow from within to irrigate the souls of others. I am speaking of suffering.

In the first reading, Isaiah writes, “by his stripes we are healed.” The body of Jesus became for us a wound from which flows our salvation, from which flows sanctifying grace and all that makes us whole.

…upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole. (First reading)

But are we not the mystical body of Christ? Through Baptism, we are joined to Christ and “whoever is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” [1]cf. 1 Cor 6:17 Likewise, through the Eucharist, “because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body.” [2]cf. 1 Cor 10:17 If by His wounds, the wounds in His body, we are healed—and we are His body—then, through our wounds joined to His, healing flows to others. That is, through our suffering united to Christ’s, the power of the Holy Spirit begins to flow through our spirit like a spring reaching out, often in unknown ways, to water the souls of others.

The key that unlocks the power of the Spirit in us in our suffering is faith working in weakness.

For indeed he was crucified out of weakness, but he lives by the power of God. So also we are weak in him, but toward you we shall live with him by the power of God. (2 Cor 13:4)

Suffering is essentially the experience of weakness—whether it’s the misery of war or the common cold. The more we suffer, the weaker we are, especially when that suffering is beyond our control. It was precisely suffering beyond his control that led St. Paul to cry out to God, who replied:

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.

And Paul responds:

I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. (2 Cor 12:9)

When like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we say, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me; still, not my will but yours be done,” [3]Lk. 22:42 we immediately unite our suffering to Christ’s in an act of faith. We don’t have to feel anything; we don’t have to even like it; we simply need to will it and offer it in love. And in that wound, the power of Christ begins to flow through us, transforming us, and making up “what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” [4]cf. Col 1:24 For…

…in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace…so that every form of suffering, given fresh life by the power of this Cross, should become no longer the weakness of man but the power of God. —BLESSED JOHN PAUL II, Salvifici Doloris, Apostolic Letter, n. 26

Yes, the power of the Spirit flows through us in charisms, in anointings, in praise, in prayer, and charity. But there is also a hidden power that comes from our suffering that is just as powerful, just as efficacious, when we hang upon that daily cross in faith.

Today, perhaps as no other time in history when suffering is so great, can the salvation of the world be affected—not so much by programs, nor eloquent speeches, or spectacular miracles—but by the power of the Holy Spirit flowing through the wounds of the body of Christ. This is what we mean when we say “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.” [5]Tertullian, Apologeticus, Ch. 50 But don’t forget the white martyrdom each day that becomes a seed, a wellspring of grace for the world. It is the Gospel of Suffering written in our abandonment to the anguish of weakness, helplessness, suffering…

The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly with the words of this strange paradox: the springs of divine power gush forth precisely in the midst of human weakness. —BLESSED JOHN PAUL II, Salvifici Doloris, Apostolic Letter, n. 26

This Good Friday— “good” because it is through His suffering that we are saved; “good” because our suffering is no longer in vain—I want to share a prayer with you, a song I wrote from a heart of weakness…





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1 cf. 1 Cor 6:17
2 cf. 1 Cor 10:17
3 Lk. 22:42
4 cf. Col 1:24
5 Tertullian, Apologeticus, Ch. 50
Posted in HOME, MASS READINGS, SPIRITUALITY and tagged , , , , , .