Sunday, July 24, 2011
A Way Out of This Miserable Life...
VI Sunday after Pentecost - II Class
Epistle: Rom. 6:3-11 [New life in Christ.]
Gospel: Mk. 8:1-9 [Feeding of the four thousand.]
Full Latin-English propers here.
"Why does God allow suffering?" "Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?" People constantly have asked through history why we have pain and suffering and why God does not stamp it out. The reason why God allows suffering is that it is our ticket out of the sufferings of this world. That sounds counter-intuitive, but God's plans often are and God often uses His enemy's own weapons to defeat them. We hear in the Preface of the Holy Cross, "et qui in ligno vincebat, in ligno vinceretur" (that he [Satan] who conquered on a tree [in the garden], might be conquered on a tree [the cross]). Through His sacrifice of Himself on the cross Christ purchase for us an escape route from the suffering and death of this world. An escape from this fallen world is the only thing that ultimately matters, as this world has hell as its natural end, thanks to the fallen nature we have as a result of original sin. Original sin causes our souls to naturally be in a state of sin (thus we all go to hell by default) and brought suffering into the world. From, working for our food, to childbirth, to death itself, every ill this world has was unleashed by original sin.
On the cross, Christ uses suffering to atone for sin. This sacrifice makes life available to a dead world. This life then, is made present to us through the Sacraments. If we are to have any hope of entering heaven, if we are to have relief from our suffering, we must join ourselves to this Holy Sacrifice of Christ. We do so in two ways. First and foremost we must join ourselves to Christ and His Supreme Sacrifice on the Cross through the Sacraments of the Church. Secondly, we can augment this union by offering up our own suffering up to Christ; giving Him our wounds, that He might heal them. At that point, our suffering is destroyed by suffering. Christ renders our suffering so weak, that it destroys itself. By offering up the pain and suffering of our lives, enduring the pain and letting Christ take charge of it and heal it as He chooses, the pain itself is destroyed. However, the offering up of suffering to Christ only works if we are joined to Him in the first place. We can't give Him anything unless we are connected to Him. Offering up our own suffering increases our union with Him. We must have a union with Him in the first place, or else there is nothing to increase.
Through this union, Christ heals all our wounds. The more we join ourselves to His self-sacrifice on the cross, the more we are healed and the more joy and peace He can give us in our lives. These gifts are not directly proportional. We do not get 10 units of healing for 10 units of penance. Christ loves us more than we can understand and is always generous in giving us medicine for the wounds of our lives. We destroy our lives through our own selfishness and He restores them better than they were before. This goes back to the concept of "God can make you happier than you can make yourself, so offer everything up to God and let Him decide what will happen." that I talked about last week. We see in today's Gospel how Christ multiplies the loaves and fishes to feed four thousand. Christ can bring sustenance from starvation and great things out of nothing. Christ takes what little we are capable of offering Him and multiplies it into a great gift beyond our imagining.
At this point, the old self, degraded and in pain because of sin stops existing and the new self, living in the joy and peace of God, which is far greater than any joy or peace this world can give us. That is why we suffer. St. Paul says in today's Epistle, "Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall live also together with Christ." We share in Christ's suffering that we may share in His Resurrection. The only catch is that we have to let God be in charge of our lives and let Him decide how things will happen. For us humans that makes the task almost impossible as we have a very hard time letting go of what hurts us and entrusting it to someone else. Then again, this tendency of ours is a result of original sin, so offering it up heals it.