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The Joy in Suffering


Next to Our Lord, n o oth er creature suffered as much as Our Most Blessed Moth er. Yet, admist Her most bitter sufferin g s, sh e was filled with joy. Wh at? How can on e be sufferin g an d joyful at th e same time? In today's world, joy is usually associated with feelings of pleasure, excitemen t, or relaxation . "To feel g ood is to be g ood" is th e motto put forth by th ose wh o live every momen t of th eir lives tryin g to satisfy th eir sen sible desires an d avoid an y an d every pin ch of pain . However, feeling g ood is n ot always con sisten t with leadin g a h oly life. As a matter of fact, feeling pain is a h allmark of th e sain ts wh o at th e same time led joyful lives. We can come to un derstan d th is apparen t con tradiction by takin g a look at th e makeup of our h uman n ature. Below is a ch art en titled "Th e Powers of Man ". You can click on th e ch art to view a larg er imag e. Th ese powers are divided in to th ree categ ories: veg etative, an imal, an d ration al. Th e vegetative powers in man are th ose wh ich h e sh ares with th e rest of livin g org an isms, th at is, plan ts an d an imals. Th e animal powers of man are th ose wh ich h e sh ares with all n on -plan t livin g org an isms such as mon keys, dog s, cats, etc. Th ese animal powers are also kn own as th e sensitive part of man because th ey deal with th e sen sible (i.e., material) life: touch , taste, feelin g s, emotion s, passion s, etc. Each of th ese powers is rooted in th e makeup of man 's body. Un fortun ately, man y people today do n ot admit th at man h as powers beyond th ese animal powers. To such people, joy is simply a bodily respon se of on e attain in g wh at h e desires. Love is simply a feelin g . Th ese people reduce man to th e level of a mon key. No, my frien ds. Man is n ot simply an an imal. God g ave man an oth er set of powers th at are n ot bodily, but spiritual. Hen ce, th ese powers, wh ich reside in th e soul, g ive man wh at n o mon key can ever h ave: etern al life! Th ese powers th at set us apart from an imals are called th e rational powers. Man is, th en , a ration al an imal. Th is ration al part of man is comprised of two main powers: th e in tellect an d will. It is th is in tellect an d will wh ich make man be in th e imag e an d liken ess of God; it is th is in tellect an d will wh ich we sh are with th e an g els. Th e in tellect was made to assen t to th e truth ; th e will was made to ch oose th e g ood. It is by th e in tellect th at God in fuses in th e

soul th e supern atural virtue of Faith ; it is by th e will th at God in fuses in th e soul th e supern atural virtues of Hope an d Ch arity. As Cath olics kn ow, th e souls in h eaven do n ot h ave a body, except for Our Lord an d Our Lady. Th ose souls will be reun ited with th eir bodies at th e Last Judg emen t. How at th is momen t, th en , can St. Peter see an d love God in h eaven with out a body? It is because th ere are in th e soul parallels to th e knowing an d appetitive powers th at exist in th e an imal part of man . Th e in tellect, also called reason, h as parallels to th e knowing powers of th e an imal part of man ; th e will, also called th e rational appetite, h as parallels to th e appetitive powers of th e an imal part of man . Th erefore, St. Peter can see an d love God an d th us experien ce joy in h eaven even th oug h h is soul is curren tly separated from h is body. We sh ould n ow beg in to un derstan d h ow we on earth can experien ce joy in sufferin g , th at is, be joyful in spirit wh ile sufferin g in body. My frien ds, th in k about Our Lord sufferin g terribly in His Body on th e cross - torn flesh , open woun ds, crown ed with th orn s, mocked an d derided. At on e poin t, th e sufferin g was so in ten se th at He cried out, "My God, My God! Wh y h ast Th ou forsaken me?" Yet at th at very momen t, His Soul was filled with overflowin g joy! Wh y? Because He was about to accomplish th e complete fulfillmen t of His Fath er's will - th e appeasemen t of th e Divin e an g er an d th e redemption of man kin d! Deo g ratias! For th e same reason s, Our Moth er was spiritually overjoyed even in Her bodily sufferin g s. It is true th at sufferin g is an evil. God did n ot create man to suffer. Rath er, sufferin g is th e result of Orig in al Sin . Let us n ot forg et th at Adam an d Eve were placed in th e Garden of Paradise. Th eir in tellect an d will h ad complete con trol over th e desires of th e body. Th e serpen t could n ot tempt th em to impurity, for example. In stead h e appealed to th eir pride, wh ich is a spiritual defect. After th ey sin n ed, th e body became rebellious ag ain st th e spirit. Ever sin ce th en , th e spirit an d body are at war with each oth er. With th e h elp of g race, it is th e spirit th at must overcome th e body if we are to attain everlastin g g lory in h eaven . However, we can n ot obtain th is g lory with out sufferin g . God, in His Providen ce, uses th e result of sin as th e mean s of our san ctification because Our Lord san ctified th is mean s by His death on th e Cross. Oh , h ow we run away from sufferin g ! But let us n ot be cowards. Wh eth er we like it or n ot, EVERYONE must suffer - rich or poor, kin g or peasan t. Wh at is importan t is wh at we do with th at sufferin g th at God sen ds us. Are we g oin g to be like th e robber wh o complain ed about it or like th e on e wh o said h e deserved it? Even th oug h both suffered th e same amoun t of bodily pain , th e former suffered h is way to h ell an d th e latter h is way to h eaven ! But my frien ds, it is n ot en oug h to simply accept all sufferin g s with resig n ation . If on e is to become a sain t, on e must actively desire an d seek it! Yes, in deed. Our beloved Seraph ic Fath er so desired an d loved sufferin g th at wh en a fellow Friar complain ed th at God was bein g too h arsh on Fran cis, our beloved Seraph im rebuked h im! St. Fran cis took utter joy in h is sufferin g , especially in th e won derful g ift of th e stig mata. Wh ere th en is on e to actively seek an d fin d th ese opportun ities for sufferin g ? On e n eed n ot look furth er th an th e Th ird Order of St. Fran cis, in particular, th e Rule of Pope Nich olas IV. Th is won derful Rule con tain s th e spirit of St. Fran cis as orig in ally in ten ded, wh ich is n on e oth er th an th e spirit of Ch rist! Th e pen an ces con tain ed in th is Rule truly mortify th e body in submission to th e spirit an d th e spirit in submission to Ch rist. Th e Th ird Order of Pen an ce, as it is more properly called, h as for its ultimate en d n on e oth er th an th e complete an d perfect tran sformation of th e soul in to an d un ion with Ch rist. Love of God is th e cause, sufferin g is th e mean s, an d pleasin g God is th e en d. Th e Rule of Pope Nich olas IV in cites th e cause an d provides th e mean s to ach ieve th e en d. So my frien ds, to con clude, th e n ext time we complain about th e sufferin g th at befalls us or

th at we h ave taken on of our own accord, let us look upon a crucifix an d con template th e immen se sufferin g our sin s h ave caused Our Lord. On ly th en will we remember th at we deserve etern al pun ish men t for th ese sin s, but th at Our Lord, by His sufferin g an d death on th e Cross, h as g iven us th e opportun ity for etern al joy. Let us always, th en , take joy in sufferin g ! In th e Seraph ic Fath er.