Why must we suffer?

GOD'S WORD TODAY - The Philippine Star

To Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” Peter replies, “The Christ of God.”  “Christ” means the anointed or chosen one of God.  In the Old Testament the kings and prophets of Israel were anointed by God to mediate God’s word and to guide Israel in fulfilling God’s will.  Peter recognized Jesus as chosen by God to play a special role in the Father’s salvific plans.

However there were varying notions of the anointed one.  On the one hand was the idea of the prestigious chosen one, such as the military kings and high priests of Israel who were powerful, wealthy and influential.  On the other hand, the often despised anointed of God, such as the prophets and the suffering servant who were rejected, persecuted and often martyred.

Peter must have thought of Jesus in terms of the glorious messiah, for when Jesus foretold of his impending suffering, Peter promised to defend and spare him from all harm.  Jesus in reply asked Peter if he was capable of drinking the cup of suffering together with him.  And in today’s Gospel reading Jesus declares that the Son of Man must suffer and that if anyone wishes to follow him, he must take up his cross daily.

Peter must have been totally confounded and deeply disturbed.  He left family, boat and net to accompany Jesus into glory as the triumphant messiah who would free Israel from Roman rule, not to follow Jesus to his crucifixion and death in Golgotha.  Moreover, he did not realize from the start that suffering, his own, was intrinsic to discipleship to Jesus.

Two questions? Why did Jesus have to suffer?  In following Jesus, why are we bound to suffer?

Jesus’ crucifixion was not pre-ordained by the Father.  Jesus’ rejection and execution by the chief priests of Israel and the Roman authorities was the consequence of his fidelity to his mission.  The Father commissioned the Son to reveal and embody the breadth and depth of God’s inclusive love and mercy.  In doing so, Jesus was executed – not because the Father willed it, but as the outcome of his faithfulness to the Father and to his mission.

Similarly, in following Jesus we suffer, not because the Father intends our suffering, but as the consequence of faithfulness to Jesus and conformity to his values and principles.  Sin and evil in the world will do all they can to vanquish the light of Jesus in anyone.  For instance, during the Japanese Occupation, Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos remained in Corregidor while President Quezon sought refuge in Australia. He was captured by the Japanese and pressured to work for the Japanese Government.  Refusing to collaborate with them, he was executed by firing squad.

Moreover the disciple of Jesus suffers as he battles sin within. As he strives to conform himself more and more to Jesus, he will have to battle pride, self-righteousness, avarice, lust, envy within.  The suffering is integral to the process of purification. The Carmelite mystics call this the dark night of the senses.  The spiritual journey is a daily battle against sin within and without, which is accompanied by much suffering.

Today as we celebrate Father’s Day, we pray for all fathers that they may exemplify fidelity to the Gospel values notwithstanding the consequences.  We pray also for all our newly elected national and local officials that they promote the welfare of our people and model to us a dedication to truth, justice and inclusive love despite the suffering and hardship that come with public office.








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