Tuesday, September 01, 2009
Beauty Must Suffer
We're not on fire. An enormous area here is California is on fire, but we are far away. We don't really even have to breath the awful smoke, nor are we having ash rains as we have had with some of the other fires. Other places have summer, fall, winter and spring. We have rainy season and fire season. The reason we have fire season is precisely that rainy season lasts for about three weeks in February, where it rains a little bit. Then by June, after no rain, and July and August, after it's 102 at 8 am for a few weeks, the place goes up in smoke.
A very large number of people are suffering. I hope they offer it up. I also hope it rains or something, or the wind changes and blows the fire backwards over the acres it already burned.
A question from a reader:
While you are looking into Saint Elizabeth Seton, perhaps you could also break down for me the concept of just HOW our suffering aids the Lord in the conversion of souls and such. While I understand the "offering it up", the old "Methodist" part of me still snarls that by having died on the cross for our sins, Jesus paid it ALL and that he does not, NOT need our sufferings on top of his to aid in salvation of the masses. (My cradle Catholic husband also joins the choir of discontent and unbelief of this as well) I can ALMOST grasp it, the concept sparkles just beyond my reach. I know that the honest to the point way you have of putting things will lay this gem in my hand. Thanks!
Was I looking into Elizabeth Seton? Uh-oh. I hope whoever was waiting on that information has offered up their suffering.
Apparently you really don't understand the 'offering it up' thing at all.
Jesus does not need anyone's anything. He could just go on His merry Way. He never has to hear from you again. He could be perfectly happy living with His Father and the Holy Spirit and all the angels and saints (who, by the way, offered up their suffering...just sayin') and forget all about the rest of us pathetic sinners.
But He doesn't.
He is a hard person to understand.
The suffering isn't about Him. It's about you. If you can suffer and be glad, if you can suffer and not complain, if you can suffer and make it a prayer, you will understand Him a lot better, because that's the way He lived His life.
Let's pretend for a moment that when Jesus died on the cross it had absolutely nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins. Let' say, for the sake of argument, that what really happened here is that this fellow shot His mouth off a little too often and a little too loudly for the comfort level of some minorly powerful people, so they had Him done away with.
Then what does it all mean?
Is it possible to understand that beyond the forgiveness of sins, that Jesus never stopped showing us how to live, even up to the moment of His death? That He did not raise a hand in defense or anger, that He accepted His suffering, that He did not allow His followers to raise a hand, even in defense. That when He said, "You have learned that they were told, “Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.” But what I tell you is this: Do not set yourself against the man who wrongs you. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn and offer him your left. " (Matthew 5:38-42), He wasn't just whistlin' Dixie?
If Jesus had just showed up as God and run all around saying all of this stuff, we could have all just said, "Easy for you to say, God."
But He didn't. He suffered the way we suffered. He suffered all the ways we suffer. He just handled it a lot better than we tend to handle it.
Offering up your suffering is a prayer of communion and understanding with Jesus and with all those who suffer.
If I can sit here in my smokey house while the ashes rain down, I can better understand the suffering of those who are right on the fire line, whose homes are in harms way, whose eyes burn hotter than mine, whose sinuses are clogged and whose throats are choked.
When I have a day when it is difficult to breath, I can better understand the suffering of those with chronic lung problems.
I can be thankful for what I don't have to suffer and I can be more compassionate for those who continue to suffer.
Please don't forget that Jesus also said this, "Whatsoever you do to the least of My brothers, this you also do unto Me." He wasn't just talking about dropping a quarter in a bum's hat.
I hope this helps relax your snarl a bit.