Posted by: fvbcdm | August 12, 2016

Feast of Saint Jane Frances de Chantal (12 August 2016)

Saint Paul says to the Colossians: I rejoice in my sufferings . . . in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church. Now, what is that all about? It means that Saint Paul sees a very great value in his sufferings, which were many, both interior and exterior. He was imprisoned a number of times; he was flogged several times; he was shipwrecked; he underwent all sorts of hardships and deprivations. And in addition to all that he suffered from that mysterious “thorn in the flesh” that he speaks of, and which he besought God to take from him. But it was not God’s will to remove that particular form of suffering, whatever it was, but rather to give him the grace to endure it for God’s own purposes.

So he tells the Colossians that he rejoices in his sufferings. Why? What is there about suffering that should make him — and us — rejoice? “In my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” In other words, Paul realizes that divine justice requires atonement to be made for sin. Now, Our Lord came into the world to make that atonement, principally by his sufferings and death on the cross. But just as he suffered by way of atonement, so we are required to imitate him and be conformed to him by our suffering, too. It is not that Jesus didn’t do enough. It is that for the sake of our own spiritual well-being, we — who are members of the mystical Body of Christ — are required likewise to make atonement for our sins and those of our fellow-members in this society which we call the Mystical Body of Christ.

When suffering comes into our lives, that does not mean that God is angry with us or is punishing us. Jesus suffered; his immaculate Mother suffered; the saints have suffered, and welcomed suffering into their lives. These things were not caused by the wrath of God; God was not displeased with His Divine Son nor with his son’s mother. As Jesus our head suffered, so we the members suffer in union with him. Saint John of the Cross, a famous Carmelite mystic of the 16th century, said, “If I were to spend a single day without suffering, I would consider it a day wasted.”

This is the logic of the saints; this is the logic of the cross. When suffering comes our way, let us receive it as gift, not as punishment. We are filling up in our flesh that which must be done by the total body of the cosmic Christ. Thank you for seeking God’s truth, God bless you. Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.

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