While I am away on my vacation, I leave the following Reflection for your consideration. —Msgr. Richard
What Paul writes to the Colossian can be disastrously misunderstood: “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.”
Is suffering a good thing? Should we seek out opportunities to suffer? And how is it that our suffering fills what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ? What could be lacking in the One who is God from God, light from light, true God from true God?
We should note that Paul does not solve the problem that provoked Job: Why does the just one suffer? There is no available answer to that question, as God, speaking from the whirlwind, made known to Job. The just and the unjust will suffer. It is part of our human condition, the consequence of our humanity, of original sin. Paul does not attempt to solve the unsolvable but gives us a Christina context for enduring what we must. We endure what we must in hope, as Paul writes, “to bring to completion for you the Word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.”
Even in our suffering, we share in the glory of Christ. For this great gift, let us bless the Lord and give God thanks. In this way, we live not as fatalists or pessimists, but as God’s hopeful people, knowing that suffering will not rob us of our human dignity. Our sufferings are joined to those of Christ and His body, the Church. We know that we have the opportunity to face suffering in such a way as to enhance rather than diminish our human dignity.
We look to the Scriptures for models of the just, and of those noble in their sufferings. We hear of Abraham and Sarah who had lived long and justly, but who had no children. Visited by divine messengers, Abraham learns that Sarah will bear a son.
Martha and Mary, too, are examples to use of hearing and putting into practice God’s Word. While Mary may have chosen the better part, we can be sure that she and Jesus both were soon eagerly to dig into the lunch prepared by Martha. Perhaps Martha’s story and lament are to suggest that we each play our own valuable part “in accordance with God’s stewardship…to bring to completion for you the word of God, the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.” The story has a lot to tell us about our busy lives today. We are to do good, but one of the good things we are to do is to slow down and hear the word of life. —William C. Graham