Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Sisters and Brothers,
Suffering is part of
human life. Each of us will suffer at some point in our lives, and even when one
of us experiences smooth sailing someone is undergoing some pain or sorrow, some
loss or heartbreak. Whether we like it or not, one of life's challenges is
learning what to do with suffering. The suffering in our own lives and the
suffering of the world around us.
Our culture offers a
limited, two-fold strategy for suffering: avoid it whenever possible and relieve
it however possible when it cannot be avoided. In other words, our culture
classifies suffering as bad. Suffering seems to us almost an intrusion in life
as usual. So we look for ways to inoculate ourselves against it and to
anesthetize ourselves to it.
We are right to avoid
unnecessary suffering and to relieve it when we can. But if this is the sum
total of our approach to suffering, then suffering has the power to crush the
meaning out of life. From this perspective, suffering can only diminish life,
and time spent in suffering is simply time lost.
Jesus teaches us
something very different. He never says that suffering is good in and of itself.
And yet he teaches us that following him involves suffering. He urges us to take
up our cross and follow him.
suffering. He assumed all of our suffering and sorrow on the cross. He took it
upon himself. Jesus passed through suffering and death--our suffering and
death--and overcame them once and for all. His loving sacrifice transformed
suffering from a distortion of life into the soil from which new life springs.
Life beyond all suffering, all sorrow, and even death itself.
The cross does not
teach us to pursue suffering. Instead, walking the way of the cross means
engaging suffering in a specific way.
As followers of Jesus,
we engage our own suffering and the suffering of others with a hope-inspired
We can persevere
through our own suffering with the assurance that Jesus is turning even our
sharpest agony into the the birthing process of new life.
Because we are one in
Christ, we can no longer be indifferent to the suffering of others. Compassion
becomes our default setting, and we are no longer captive to the fear that our
love for another will hurt us. In Jesus Christ, suffering love becomes the way
of the cross.
Jesus wants to make our
joy complete. When we follow him along the way of the cross, he redeems even our
most grievous suffering. In Jesus Christ, the tomb itself is not a final
destination to be a avoided, but a passageway to new life. Eternal life. Life
forever free of tears and heartache.
When we follow Jesus,
we begin to taste that life today. Not in spite of suffering. But even in the
very midst of it.
The Rt. Rev. Jacob W.
Owensby, PhD, DD
The Diocese of Western
P. O. Box 2031,
Alexandria, LA 71309