Carrying Your Cross
Suffering. We all know it. It is an inescapable part of the human experience. Our readings today help us understand what to do with suffering, how to redeem it for eternal glory. In a tenderly poetic passage, the prophet Jeremiah clings to the Lord, despite the suffering and hatred he endures in God’s service. Since speaking on behalf of the Lord is the cause of his anguish, Jeremiah flirts with the idea of giving it all up, of abandoning his ministry. But God is “too strong,” and Jeremiah remains faithful even in violent times. He knows, as the psalmist sings, that there is no life without God, for whom our souls thirst. Saint Paul acknowledges the universality of suffering and urges us to offer our suffering to God. God alone can transform our pain, our “crosses,” into good for others, just as God redeemed the ultimate suffering of Jesus.
Offer It Up!
As Saint Paul says, we can offer our personal experiences as a “living sacrifice.” Let’s offer up our daily prayers, thoughts, words, action, joys, and sufferings. Let’s unite our sacrifices to the perfect sacrifice of Jesus we celebrate in the Eucharist. Our sacrifices – little or big, happy or sad – become the stuff of miracles. Consider the example of the loaves and fishes we read about a few weeks ago. Jesus’ tender heart pities the hungry crowds. Jesus asks the disciples to offer anything they can spare. Using the ridiculously inadequate offering of five loaves and two fish, Jesus goes to work. He blesses their offering, breaks it, and uses it to satisfy thousands. Baskets overflow. Jesus uses a tiny offering and transforms it into real help for people in need.
We too can offer sacrifices for Jesus to transform. When we are confronted with problems we know we can’t solve, Jesus remains calm. He asks us to give what we can. Often, we have no confidence. We scoff at our own pathetic attempts. We cannot imagine how God could possibly use our boring little sacrifices of dishwashing, caregiving, or email managing to bless the world. But Jesus takes whatever we offer. He blesses it. He breaks it. He transforms it into grace for ourselves and for all people in need.
The mystery of redemptive suffering transforms our lives, but it is not an easy mystery to accept. Suffering is not attractive. Especially when suffering afflicts innocent people, we cry out to God for justice and relief. Jesus’ words penetrate our hearts: “You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” We beg the Lord to accept our suffering, then, and to transform it in ways we cannot imagine. Embracing the details and crosses of daily life, we look forward to the day when Jesus comes in glory, revealing to us how he used our sacrifices to bless the world.
Psalm 63:2-6, 8-9
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