THEOLOGIANS talk about Messianic necessity – Christ had to suffer. Even the apostles found out that hard to understand and Christ had to explain it all very patiently to the disciples on the road to Emmaus that first Sunday evening. It’s even harder for us to understand why there has to be so much suffering and pain in the world. It’s the same basic law of human necessity – there has to be suffering because of sin. Without sin there is no need for suffering. Without sin there was no need for Christ to die.
But Sister Anselm used to tell us that you can change suffering into love, because suffering and love are two sides of the same coin. That’s why we can say that the cross is the symbol of pain and suffering, but it is also the symbol of love. That’s why the little boy in the catechism class could say that God is wherever there is a cross.
It all depends on what we do with pain. We can complain about it and do everything in our power to avoid it. Or we can accept it as a necessary part of human life and turn it into an act of love. In my many visits to hospitals and to the sick, I have seen many people turn their suffering into love. I remember an old Irish woman in a cancer hospital in New York. A visitor said to her: “You must be suffering something awful.” And the beautiful woman answered: “It’s the least I can do for all that the Lord has done for me.” Her pain were not cross of suffering. It was a cross of love.
Michaelangelo’s statue of the Pieta is one of the world’s masterpieces of human suffering. The Blessed Mother holds her dead Son in her arms. And yet it is one of the world’s masterpieces of love. What is it that makes love out of human suffering? It all depends on what you do with it. You can run away from pain, you can waste it, you can complain about it. Or you can change it into a magnificent act of love. St. Fulgentius says that the cross is the stairway to heaven. For God is wherever there is a cross – if only we can find Him in suffering, if only we can turn pain into love. “Love is the source of all good things. It is an impregnable defense against all pain and suffering. It is the way that leads to heaven. He who walks in love can never go astray or ever be afraid. Love guides him, protects him from all suffering, and brings him to his journey’s end.
Here’s a poem by Joseph Mary Plunkett to share:
I see His blood upon the rose
And in the stars the glory of His eyes.
His body gleams amid eternal snows,
His tears fall from the sky.
I see His face in every flower;
The thunder and the singing of the birds
Are but His voice – and carven by His power
Rocks are His written words
All pathways by His feet are worn,
His strong heart stirs the ever-beating sea,
His crown of thorns is twined with every thorn,
Hi cross is every tree.
These excerpts are from “The Mustard Seed” by Joseph A. Galdon, S.J.