In Today’s second reading St. Paul writes about the sufferings he endures to fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.
However, were not Christ’s sufferings alone sufficient for our salvation? They were, for with that suffering he opened the gates of Heaven for each and everyone of us. The gates are open, but we only need to get there.
St. Theresa of Avila described that road to those gates as one filled with thieves, marauders and obstacles. She considered it a stupid idea to believe otherwise. In other words, Jesus opened the gates of Heaven for those who approach the gate worthily, but there is much to deter us from reaching that spot. For there are forces that never want us to go through those gates. St. Theresa explained that we must keep in mind that what is behind those gates is the greatest of all treasures. Therefore, of course, there are those who will try to prevent us from reaching them.
If there is one thing I learned in the great protests we endured at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross it was that just as Jesus gives all he can that we may be saved. The Devil gives almost all he can that we may be lost. We are in a battle for not only our souls but the souls of those around us and the Devil wants to destroy each one, preventing them from entering the Kingdom of Heaven and yes the Devil is real. I can certainly vouch for that. The devil was never incarnate, he cannot give his life. Jesus alone did that we may be saved. The devil’s only power is to get us off that road to the gates. But if we focus on God we will be saved, He is all powerful.
In Hebrews, the writer of that letter teaches us that, though Jesus is the Son of God, through his suffering he learned obedience to the Father. This is an important point, because it is through His obedience that we were saved, and it is through ours that we will enter the kingdom of Heaven.
Our suffering does not add to Jesus’ ability to save us, but rather it is through perseverance in suffering that we grow more obedient to the Father which leads us to holiness and those gates. When we do not give up the fight in the most difficult situations we reach those gates, but in our prayerful struggle we lead others there as well. We persevere in God’s grace on the way to eternal life and to lead others to eternal life.
Suffering that we may endure transforms us to eternal life.
St James reminds us that when we are undergoing difficulties consider it pure joy, for that will lead us to persevere in our faith, and our perseverance will lead us to be lacking in nothing.
What is sin? Disobedience to the will of God. What is holiness? Obedience to the will of the Father. It is literally conforming our will to His and being His agents in this world to those around us. It is through our perseverance in suffering that we are formed in holiness. Our formation in holiness leads us not only to the kingdom of God, but also helps us lead others to the kingdom which is our mission. Meanwhile, the psalmist warns that we should never be envious of those who have lived a sinful life and avoided suffering for they disappear like smoke.
What is also most fascinating is that those people who seek to undermine our ability to bring salvation to others by persecuting us for our Catholic faith, not only help us to grow in holiness, but also bring condemnation on their own heads through their attempt to undermine us. This is why we do not enact revenge, we leave that up to God. We seek only to grow in holiness and lead others on the way. God deals with those who seek to destroy our witness.
This whole understanding of suffering in the life of those who seek to grow in holiness is greatly misunderstood today, for we have a culture that does everything it can to prevent suffering. That is not a bad thing obviously. The Catholic Bible itself proclaims the merits of the doctor. However, in a culture so focused on a life without suffering, actual suffering can be confusing to those who do not believe in God. Those members of our culture trying to end all suffering begin by trying to debunk God. Then they find soon that they walk down a dark hole. The more we fight to avoid suffering the more we get lost in that struggle and the more it controls us.
Jesus warned the apostles that they would endure great suffering in doing his work, but if they persevere they would find salvation and save many others.
Outside of faith, suffering loses any meaning. I told you last week of the world class atheist in England who teaches that those who suffer a debilitating illness or accident just simply lost the “life lottery.” He has no way of understanding suffering except to say to the sufferer: “Too bad for you.”
St. Paul who literally writes in chains, who literally lost all his dreams and aspirations, who finds himself in the midst of great suffering and who even is martyred for the faith is happy. Why, because he has been conformed and molded to offer all that he encounters to Christ for the salvation of souls including his own. His mission has been changed to do all he can that the most can be saved. It is to be our mission as well.
If we are followers of Christ, why is it that we suffer? To be conformed in Christ that we may be saved and more important to save others as well. As you can see, we have an interesting mindset in this world today, for so much of this world is rooted in avoiding suffering.
However, it is one who can stay faithful by seeking not his or her own will but God’s will especially in suffering who truly becomes holy because that person under sometimes a form of duress can say I will be a disciple of Christ no matter what. One learns to do that especially in the most difficult of circumstances. Such people also create powerful parishes that lead whole communities to salvation.
Our mission is to save souls and lead others to Christ and by obedience to God in the midst of our sufferings we do it more powerfully than any way else.
God bless you,
Fr. Robert J Carr
Fr. Carr is member of the Segundo Elo of the Canção Nova Community. He is the pastor of Holy Trinity Quincy, MAand is the editor of this blog. He is the author of several books, blogs and hundreds of videos all of which you may find on Youtube. You can follow him on twitter as @frbobcarr and on Google plus as+FrRobertCarr. Thoughts, comments on the homily? Let us know at Facebook