As I read through and reflected on Sunday’s Gospel, the old athletic saying came to mind: “No pain, no gain.” In order to gain life, Jesus said, we must be prepared to lose it. I wish it were otherwise, but it is true that our greatest growth as a human being comes when we pass through suffering of any kind and emerge on the other side with a new perspective on life and a new awareness and appreciation of life’s preciousness.
Suffering is something we share with every man, woman, and child of every age, nationality, and religion. War, domestic violence, natural disaster, human selfishness and greed, and disease leave many broken bodies and spirits in their wake. And yet there are so many people, from Pope Francis to you and I, who seem to rise above their suffering and use it as a way of giving life to other people.
Those who have the hardest time dealing with their personal crosses are usually those who want to return to things as they were. “I’ll be glad when things get back to normal” is a sentiment I frequently hear.
But in reality, there is no going back. That can be a painful admission, and one has to grieve the loss of the “old normal” in addition to enduring whatever pain one is presently feeling. For sure, bearing this cross is not a walk in the parkit’s hard, very hard. Jesus knows that from experience. And from his experience, he reaches out to us to #1, helps us on our personal way of the cross, and #2, promises us new life, a “new normal.”
Part of the pain of suffering is the feeling that we are all alone. Those are the times we need to remember that Jesus walks with us, bearing more than his share of the yoke. Mary, the Mother of Sorrows, walks with us also. So do our loved ones in heaven, as well as those on earth. Oftentimes in confession I give this penance: “Somewhere in the world at this moment is someone who is suffering intensely, and is losing heart. You don’t know that person, but God does. Pray for that person.” And who knowsthat person could be you!!
Have courage; the Lord is with you.