OPTION 2: Fr. Joseph Galdon, SJ in his book, The Mustard Seed, told a story about a parish priest who visited a catechism class of his parish one day. He went into the class of those preparing to receive their First Communion. The catechist wanted to impress the parish priest that the class is ready. She asked them question one by one until she came to a very quiet little boy in the last row. The catechist asked him: “Where is God?” it was obvious that the little boy did not know the answer because he fidgeted for a moment and then blurted: “God is wherever there is cross!” this is not the type the catechist wanted to hear but I don’t think many theologians would object to the boy’s answer. Maybe he was thinking of the Cross in the Church or the crucifix on the wall of their classroom. And of course, that is where God is.
In our gospel, Jesus was already at the height of His popularity. Multitudes of people came to Him to listen to Him. He is an in-demand speaker to talk during dinners, parties, in-houses and synagogues. It is because this is His mission to spread the good news of the Kingdom of God.
But the people, also with His disciples, misunderstood His mission. Jesus tells them bluntly that He was destined to go to Jerusalem to suffer grievously and to be put to death (v. 21).and he continued saying: “If you want to be my follower, you must carry your own cross,” (v. 24). It seemed he doused cold water on their triumphalistic hopes and expectations. In other words, He talked about His passion and suffering on the cross.
According to Fr. Alfredo Paguio that suffering is a reality in life. Everyone must suffer. The problem is how to sweeten suffering and get the most of it. Pope John Paul II, in an apostolic letter, salvifici Dolores, talked on suffering:
- Suffering is evil. Evil is the absence of good rooted in sin which can bring about death. This absence of good can cause greater suffering if the one who suffers thinks he/she does not deserve such suffering.
- There are different kinds of suffering: physical, spiritual and psychological. There are also private sufferings like loneliness. And there are common sufferings like those cause by epidemic, calamity and famine.
- Suffering comes from the world. It does not come from God. Yet the one who suffers usually turns to God to ask on the causes and objectives of suffering.
- Suffering can be punishment arising from the justice of God. It can also be a test like how it was with Job. And God also permits suffering in order that it can serve as a seed for holiness or greatness.
- Our sufferings can also be joined with the sufferings of Christ for our salvation or for that of others.. not because Christ’s suffering are not enough. But because Christ has left this open to love so that the bitter sufferings of man mingled with this love may turn into a sweet spring which shall overflow into eternity.
A religious sister, as mentioned by Fr. Galdon, who used to tell especially little children that we can change suffering into love because suffering and love are two sides of the same coin. That is why we can say that the cross is the symbol of pain and suffering but it is also the symbol of love. That is why we always wear it in our neck because it reminds us of how great is the love of the Father to each one of us by giving to us His only Son Jesus Christ.
But it all depends on how we deal with our cross or suffering. There are two ways, as mentioned by Fr. Galdon. First is we can complain about it; you can run away from it or you can wasted it.
Like for example, a mother who keeps on pouring her heart out. She complains about paying debts, education of students. She is bothered about her husband’s excessive drinking and about her daughter’s living in with her boyfriend.
I read a joke about marriage in the past and at present, in the past, the steps in getting married and have children were the following: 1) Get married first; 2) Have sexual intercourse; 3) and so the woman got pregnant; 4) then woman gave birth to a child and 5) have it baptized. But at present, the steps are the opposite to what was in the past: 1) Have sexual intercourse first; 2) then the woman gets pregnant; 3) the woman gives birth to a child; 4) they get married and 5) have the child baptized. In the past, the answer when asked during wedding ceremony was: “I do!” but at present when asks, the answer is: “I did!”
Second we can accept the cross as a necessary part of human life and turn it into an act of love. It is because the cross and suffering are realities of human condition. In the words of an existentialist philosopher: “Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.” Rich or poor, healthy or sickly, strong or weak are not exempted from suffering. There are several types of suffering mentioned in the apostolic letter, Salvifici Dolores, physical, spiritual, psychological or emotional. The cynic would say that only death would cancel our suffering. Is this true?
So what are we going to do? We go to the second suggestion on how to deal with suffering and cross. We can accept that everybody is suffering or accept it as part of human life and turn it into an act of love, that is, a cross of love and not just a cross of suffering. It is because if we always complain about our own crosses and suffering, we add more and more heaviness to our cross. Even Jesus Christ, up to today, is still carrying His cross and it becomes heavier and heavier because we add some like: natural and man-made calamities, sickness, injustices and corruptions, rape and murder of innocent victims, kidnapping, damaging of one’s name.
Let us also take the cross of suffering as a symbol of love because as St. Fulgentius says: “The cross is the stairway to heaven.”
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A