The other night as I was driving. I noticed that it was really getting dark but that people were not putting on their lights.
It puzzled me for a moment until I realized that I was wearing my sunglasses and when I took them off everything changed.
In today’s Gospel Jesus forces his disciples and all of us to take off our sunglasses and clearly see the demands of discipleship.
Jesus makes sure that everyone knows what it really means to follow Him.
Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”
And so, you see that all of us as followers of Christ are called to carry the cross. All of us as followers of Jesus should expect suffering and pain.Jesus is very upfront about this.
Often human suffering is one of the greatest challenges a person can face.
Sometimes when we are faced with suffering, we ask ourselves questions like,
Why do I have to suffer?
Why do I have to watch someone I love suffer?
Why doesn’t God take away my pain or the pain of my loved one?
These are very human questions and we should not be afraid to ask them.
If we really think about the suffering in the world some things become clear.
Sometimes if we are honest with ourselves, our suffering is the result of the choices we have made in our lives.
- We all know that if we live a poor lifestyle, we increase our chances for illness and suffering.
- If we drive everyone in our life away because of our selfishness or our anger, we will probably suffer loneliness when we need people the most.
Sometimes it’s clear to see that our suffering is the result of the choices other people make.
- Those who pollute our world or produce foods with ingredients that we can’t even pronounce so that they last a little longer on the shelf, increase our chances for cancer and sickness.
- Sometimes other people’s sinfulness affects us. When we are in the wrong place at the wrong time and we are robbed or mugged, our suffering is caused by someone else’s sin.
Sometimes our suffering is just part and parcel of having a physical body and angels don’t have to worry about cholesterol.
- It should be a surprise to no one that sometimes bodies simply wear out.
- When we fall down, we risk breaking something. If we hit our thumb with a hammer instead of the nail (been there, done that), we are going to suffer.
Yes, suffering is often caused by how we, or someone else, chooses to use the free will that God has given us.
Sometimes suffering is really good waiting to happen. There have probably been moments in our lives when our suffering has molded us, stretched us and shaped us into being better people, more loving people, more compassionate people, holier people.
A young father once told me… Kids stretch you Father. and so does marriage. But at least I’m not only thinking about myself any more (Truer words were never spoken)
The hardest type of suffering a human being can face is when someone who is innocent, someone who had done everything right, and nothing wrong has to carry the cross of suffering.
Our faith can easily be shaken by the sight of a child who was abused or ill.
We had a couple of very painful funerals this week. A beautiful young mom who was only 44 yrs old and who suffered with cancer for years went home to God.
We all prayed for her over and over again. She was anointed so many times and yet for some reason God called her home to be with Him.
We also had a father and husband who was only 64 years old die suddenly without any warning. They were both very painful funerals.
In difficult painful situations like these it is hard to find understanding or an answer that comforts.
In moments like this, all we can do is take God at his word and trust that God loves us;
It seems that sometimes the loss of a loved one or the suffering of an innocent person is allowed to happen according to God’s plan. And it is just not possible for us to understand why.
God doesn’t cause the suffering, but sometimes he allows it to happen or refuses to stop it either.
Our hearts were all broken when we saw the lifeless body of that little Syrian boy who drowned while fleeing the war in Syria. (There was not a dry eye in our friary) The news people say the sight of his lifeless body was the moment that hearts in Europe changed and the borders were finally opened. That heart breaking image of the that little boy saved 1000s of children like himself. That’ little boy;s ultimate sacrifice allowed so many other little children to live. Sound familiar? We have to ask ourselves did God need to permit that little boy’s death to move our hardened hearts and save others.
When God doesn’t stop the suffering of an innocent person, we need to find some comfort in the fact that Jesus, who was also an innocent person, had to carry the cross, suffer and die.
When humanity walked down the wrong road, when our sinfulness caused us pain and suffering, God didn’t run away. He did leave us to be victims of our own designs.
He ran to us and became one of us and for us Jesus walked down the road of suffering and pain so that we might be reconciled.
Jesus, innocent though He was, bore the weight of our sin. His love was redemptive; in other words, His suffering love saved us.
I know that for some much of what I said is worthless like straw. I know I haven’t answered the question of suffering. I know that there are people who are still hurt or still filled with doubt because of the crosses that they have, or someone they love, have had to carry in their lives.
I offer you these humble thoughts in the hope that they will help us see the connection between love and suffering.
Sometimes love calls us to suffering
And When someone suffers no matter who they are no matter where they come from we, all of us are called to run to them and love them more and help them carry the cross anyway we can.
Yes we need to take off our sunglasses and see clearly what it means be a disciple.
When, not if our time of suffering comes, may we all have strength and courage and the faith to pick up the cross and follow Jesus on the road to Calvary without fear.
For Jesus said…, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”