Willing to suffer

- Fr. Roy Cimagala - The Freeman

"Everyone will be salted with fire." That's what Christ said, as recorded in the gospel of St. Mark. (9,49) We have to be prepared for this unavoidable eventuality. And that simply means that we have to learn how to suffer, and be willing to suffer, in fact.

Salt, of course, is used for food seasoning and preservation. For our life to be properly seasoned and preserved all the way to its definitive eternal life in heaven, we need to be salted, except that in this case, we have to be salted with fire, and not just the material salt.

Fire obviously has its proper uses and benefits, but it can also be harmful and destructive. It definitely causes pain when we get into direct contact with it. And that seems to be what is meant by the above-mentioned gospel passage, since we need to be salted with it. Nothing is salted without being directly touched by salt, and this time, it is the salt of fire.

Fire here means not only anything that causes physical pain, but also moral anguish and spiritual suffering. We should learn how to take all this with faith and trust in God's mercy that will always be available no matter how gravely we fall.

We need to learn how to suffer. The massive problem we have now is precisely that many of us do not know how to suffer. We complain and cry even at the slightest touch of suffering. We become sad and fall into a hard case of depression. Self-pity and idle passivity can dominate us, sinking us into a spiral of problems and predicaments.

Or we can grasp at straws, going to all sorts of useless defense mechanisms and deceptive forms of escapism like sex, drugs, extreme forms of sports and activism, frivolous entertainment, rationalizing philosophies, ideologies, lifestyles, etc. We can in vain try to erase or ignore subjectively what objectively will always be with us in our life.

We have to learn how to suffer. It's an art and skill that is available if we only care to notice. It's all there as clear as noonday, its cause and meaning precisely defined, its antidote and vaccine abundantly provided. Our Christian faith sheds tremendous light on this mystery of our life. Christ is showing us the way.

Our faith, the ultimate source of truth about ourselves, tells us that suffering is due to sin, to the misuse of our freedom, to our disobedience to the will of God who created us to be his image and likeness, to be children of his, sharing in his very own life.

Let's remember that if God allows us to suffer some deformities or to experience some mistakes and commit sins, it is because he can derive a greater good from them. He wants us to learn a virtue or to grow more in our faith, hope and love for him and for everybody else.

We should try our best, with God's grace which he actually gives us in abundance, to go beyond the level of the sensible and the intelligible, and enter into the all-beautiful world of our faith where the humanly ugly things are converted into divinely beautiful realities.

Let's not be afraid of suffering then. We just have to learn to suffer the way Christ himself suffered. Not only has he given us the way to do it, but also the very power to suffer with him.

I remember Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI  one time saying that while God is good and cannot will evil, he sometimes allows his children to be tried through suffering to lead them to a greater good.

This truth should be at the core of our beliefs. With it, everything will be beautiful. Nothing would be ugly, and could take away our peace. Our joy and optimism would become stable. And we would be more empowered to do good things.

Suffering has to be viewed from the perspective of faith. It should be taken out from an overly human outlook that restricts it to its purely negative, painful and destructive character. There's a lot more to our suffering than what our senses and our reasoning unaided by faith can cope and discover.

First, we have to understand that our suffering was not meant for us in the beginning of our existence. Nor is it meant for our end. It came about as consequence of our mishandling our freedom, that supreme gift God our Father and Creator endowed us with at our first creation in Adam and Eve.

But with Christ's passion, death and resurrection, our suffering has been converted into something redemptive for us!

[email protected].

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with
no session for state
no session for code
no session for id_token
no session for user