St. Alphonsa was one who endured sufferings and made it a festival of joy within the cloisters of a convent. Padre Pio, the poor friar had only the pains of stigmata and harsh life of scorns and ridicule. They enjoyed the season of happiness passing through the narrow way of dryness. Those who stone from a hidden place; attack and false judgments on our personality even from those whom we have never seen at all; the helplessness of the one who is on verdict at the crossroads… Are these all the moments you make me purify, dear Lord?
“Accept whatever befalls you, and in times of humiliation be patient. For gold is tested in the fire, and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation” (Sirach 2:4-5). Dear friends, suffering is a state before our purification; it is like a ‘pre-conditioning.’
Saul’s life was one of arrogance and pride. Rest of Paul’s life was of realization and return. God comes in search of him on his journey to Damascus. There is a lightning in the desert. Saul’s external eyes are forcefully closed; and the internal ones open.
The term in between those sufferings are the road to goodness and moral life. Suffering is that wheat corn falls on the ground and dies; an individuality that fades away into a zero. From there comes the plants of goodness. A leaf, then two, three; thus it is the birth of a new wheat plant life.
Two women who crossed the red sea of sin
Bible shows us two women who cross the red sea of sin taking bath in the great holiness of Jesus Christ. One of them reached at the feet of Jesus having the tender mind of an attacked prey. Great crowd of people with stones were behind her; the cry of the just ones! For her, a mere word between life and death. The word of Christ, just a word. It would naturally judge her to death or life.
He did not speak a word. A little while later, He opened his eyes, looked at the angry crowd and said; “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (Jn. 8:7). Woman closed her eyes and waited for her death. Yes, this public judgment is the unbearable suffering. Stones fall aside… not on her but to the bare ground. What remains is the big pile of stones, beside the woman and Christ; His consoling words. Just a loving correction not to sin anymore…
A dinner at Simon’s house; a woman of bad reputation is in the picture. For her too, his words were similar, ‘your sins are forgiven.’ Music is hidden in the holes of a flute. Pearls are the result of an age-old pain from the part of sea shells.
Sufferings to stay with the Lord
Job was a just man in front of God; among the few ones in the Bible whom God called ‘just.’ His life was very transparent. God was even surer than Job that he will stay with the Lord, in any amount of suffering. Job is a challenge in front of Satan; one who comes to the play ground from the side of God. If Job is defeated, God is defeated. Job’s victory will be God’s victory. We read in the book of Job; Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes. Then his wife said to him, “Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” St. Paul is of the opinion that sufferings make us perfect.
“It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father.” (Heb. 2:10).
God, sometimes for us is like a blanket which we search for only in the heavy summer of perils and conveniently forget in our good days. Oh… God, we ask you sorry.
A good Friday before Easter is not a possibility, but a sure reality and necessity. Good Fridays of suffering are the conditions for resurrection in holiness. Suffering is a process of cleansing from both exterior and interior malice – Just like fasting takes away unwanted fat from our bodies. The unwanted waste is burned in the fire of suffering. “I will turn my hand against you; I will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy” (Is.1:25). How fruitful is obedient suffering! It would be one of the reasons why fasting and penance opens us to the fullness of virtues.
Suffering that strengthens
The Word of God testifies that suffering is an awareness program; God’s plan to strengthen me. Suffering teaches us how to fly alone. Mother bird after taking the small ones on her shoulder leaves them in between. Later on their way down she takes them again. But the small bird may not know the purpose of this trial on its fall.
It is very vividly given in the book of Deuteronomy in a poetic language; “He sustained him in a desert land, in a howling wilderness waste; he shielded him, cared for him, guarded him as the apple of his eye. As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions” (Deut. 32:10-13).
- – - written by Santimon Jacob