Below is the text (lightly edited) of a recent homily given by a Catholic priest in the United States who wishes to remain anonymous.
Homily for the fourth Sunday after Pentecost By Father X
The sufferings of this present life are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us. Suffering is inevitably and eventually the lot of everyone on this earth. But suffering of itself alone neither transforms nor purifies. It may even be the cause of rebellion and hatred. We will all suffer some time in our lives, some more and some less, in small ways and in big ways: a dent in a new car, an unkind word spoken against us, the loss of a job, the death of a family member or close friend, a sickness or disease.
But in our moments of trial we need to recall that all sufferings of the present are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come. All the trials, pains, tribulations, and sufferings we endure on earth are nothing when compared to Heaven. If we would constantly remind ourselves of this, we would not look upon suffering as something to escape, get rid of, or avoid at all costs. Some Christians abandon our Lord when they meet the cross, because they seek a purely human happiness, free from pain and accompanied by material wealth. God asks us to lose our fear of pain and unite ourselves to Him as He waits for us on the cross.
If we truly understood suffering and the good it does, we would value it as something to possess, something to embrace. For when we patiently endure our crosses, it is as if we obtain heavenly currency so that we may purchase a glorious crown for eternity. Blessed Angela of Foligno said that if mankind truly understood the worth of suffering, then suffering itself would become a target of robbery. People would want to steal it from another, take it from another so as to profit from its ownership.
Suffering is certainly a mystery, but without faith in God, it becomes much more senseless. It is in our weak human nature to want to avoid suffering. It is so difficult for us to understand the meaning of suffering that to see God's will in it seems impossible. But if we look carefully, it seems clear that suffering, the cross, is a necessary part of salvation.
One of the ways to understand the meaning of suffering in our life is to try to understand it in the life of Christ. Christ did not eliminate suffering from human existence, but He gave it a profound, salvific meaning. Although our Lord relieved the suffering of others, He Himself did not avoid suffering and death. Every act in our Lord's life was a lesson for us. The greatest act in His life was His Passion. This, then, is the greatest lesson for us. It teaches us that we too must suffer. God is asking us to take a little share in His Passion. If God suffered all the pains of His Passion for each one of us, how can we refuse to suffer a little for love of Him?
We must guard against the temptation to see suffering as an evil. Suffering, while it is the absence of a good, has a redemptive value. To deny this fact is to acknowledge that the sacrifice of Christ was pointless. By His suffering our Lord teaches us the true meaning of suffering. The way we unite ourselves with Christ and to be transformed in Him was given to us by Christ Himself: If anyone wants to be My disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. There is no other way. It is necessary to embrace suffering, to take up our cross, and to follow Christ to Calvary; not to see there how they crucified Him, but to be crucified at His side. There is no sanctification without crucifixion with Christ.
Suffering is like gold in our lives. If we accept sufferings in our life and then offer them in union with our Lord's sufferings, we receive a great reward. Five minutes of suffering borne for love of God is of greater value to us than years and years of pleasure and joy. Our sufferings can become easy to bear if we accept them with serenity and patience. What really makes suffering difficult to bear is our own impatience, our revolt, our refusal to accept it. This irritation increases our sufferings and robs us of all the merit we could have gained.
The sufferings that appear unjust and meaningless are necessary for our personal holiness and for the salvation of many souls. Within the mystery of co-redemption, our sufferings united to those of Christ acquire an incomparable value for the entire Church and for all mankind. God accepts the suffering offered to Him be a soul in grace for the salvation of another soul or for sinners in general. It is impossible to measure the redemptive power of suffering.
When all else fails, there is still recourse to suffering to obtain the salvation of a sinful soul. If we have recourse to God with humility, He will make us see that everything, even small events and circumstances least likely to do so, work together for the good of those who love Him. Suffering when seen in its true light, when it serves as a means of loving more, produces great peace and deep joy.
In his book Spiritual Theology, Father Jordan Aumann, O.P., writes:
Many souls who strive for sanctity do not wish to enter upon the way of suffering. They would like to be saints, but with a sanctity that is comfortable and easy. And when God tests them with some painful affliction of spirit or persecutions and calumny or any other cross that, if well carried, would lead them to the heights of sanctity, they draw back and abandon the way of perfection. Perhaps they have even reached the point where they asked God to send them some cross, but it is evident that what they wanted was a cross of their own choosing and, when they did not find it, they considered that they had been deceived and gave up the road to perfection. It is therefore necessary to decide once and for all to embrace suffering as God wishes to send it to us: sickness, persecution, calumny, humiliation, disappointment – whatever He wishes and in the manner He wishes.
It is not easy to reach this goal. The soul has to gradually advance, but let us not run from or avoid suffering. One of the greatest fruits we should draw from sufferings is the need to be more aware of our Lord and to be more generous in prayer and sacrifice. We can suffer from ill-health, from pains, headaches, arthritis, from accidents, from enemies. We may have financial difficulties. Some suffer for weeks in their homes, some in hospitals or nursing homes.
God could have saved us from all suffering, but He did not do so because He knows in His infinite goodness that suffering is good for us. St. Francis de Sales says this about the crosses in our life:
The everlasting God has in His wisdom foreseen from eternity the cross that He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost Heart. This cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His Divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with loving arms and weighed with His own hands to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you. He has blessed it with His Holy Name, anointed it with His grace, perfumed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from Heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.
© Matt C. Abbott