by Ken Rolheiser
What good is suffering?

What goes ha, ha, ha, thump! Someone laughing his head off. 

“One must not think that a person who is suffering is not praying. He is offering up his sufferings to God, and many a time he is praying much more truly than one who goes away by himself and meditates his head off, and, if he has squeezed out a few tears, thinks that is prayer.”
-St. Teresa of Avila 

We would do well to listen to the saints when it comes to suffering and love of the Lord. They know that “…our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (Corinthians 4:17). Saints also have visions.

“One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and enjoying themselves. …at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of hell. The souls fell blindly into it… 

And I saw the other road, …it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks; and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately and went on. 

At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first instant they forgot all their sufferings.” (DIARY Of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska).

Wow! You and I are perhaps ready to accept that kind of an ending to our lives and our sufferings. But while we are here, how do we fare? 

Today I led a prayer in church for one who had just been born to eternal life. I added that we should have a little joy, today, because she had been so looking forward to meeting Jesus.

Several times she indicated that she wished she could move on to that meeting in heaven. She was ready and a little impatient. I saw her two days ago, and she was not responsive. Her journey now involved suffering. 

“Don’t waste your suffering!” Saint Pope John Paul II said. Suffering will be a part of our lives. St Francis de Sales said, “All the science of the saints is included in these two things: to do, and to suffer. And whoever had done these two things best, has made himself most saintly.” 

Our TO DO list, our good works, are the corporal and spiritual works of mercy: to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, to visit the sick, to ransom the captive, and to bury the dead. 

The spiritual works of mercy: to instruct the ignorant, to counsel the doubtful, to admonish sinners, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offences willingly, to comfort the afflicted, to pray for the living and the dead. 

As for our suffering, we can unite it to “…fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Colossians 1:24). 

And we die, ideally, surrendering our suffering and uniting it to the passion of Christ for the good and salvation of all. That is how our suffering is sanctified. That is how we follow Christ on the cross, moving toward Resurrection. 
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