Suffering is quite naturally the least appealing part of human experience. Suffering isn’t just pain, it isn’t just a physical experience, it isn’t just sadness. Suffering applies to every way we are deprived of what is good. Sin is suffering because by choosing what seems to be good over what is really good, we deprive ourselves. Jesus takes all forms of human suffering upon Himself so that we may never find ourselves alone when we suffer. Jesus even takes upon Himself the suffering due to sin – though He Himself never sinned. He allowed Himself to be condemned and punished as a criminal, as a sacrifice – the Innocent One – so that we sinners might find refuge in Him. The One who was without sin became sin so that He might destroy it once and for all in His flesh. His body, broken on the Cross, is the image of our broken soul – broken by sin and suffering. The divinity of Christ – a sure support and powerful force of healing – carries the brokenness and weakness of Christ’s flesh all the way through His death to the Resurrection.
Monday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time
The reproach of St. Paul is devastating and it is hard to not hear how it echoes in our own day. Once immorality becomes known the Church has a responsibility to root it out – if we do not and try to justify it out of pride, the whole lump of us will rot. We have nothing to boast about as a Church if we begin to condone what is wrong or simply fail to pronounce judgement in a way that demonstrates clearly that sin separates us from God. The Church can only remain attached to Her Spouse if she detaches Herself from sin. On the one hand, each of us are personally held accountable before God for our own sins and failings – we are called to repentance so that the Lord’s mercy may heal us and we may convert our lives with the help of His grace. On the other hand, we are collectively responsible for the holiness of the Church – this is where the practice of excommunication came from. Certain errors and sinful practices, when they become publicly known and defended must be removed, and if that means individual persons are no longer held to be in communion with the Church, it is for their good and the good of the Church. They cannot be saved if they do not understand their need to convert in order to return to communion. The Church cannot be a sacrament of salvation if it espouses the lies and practices of Satan.
Thursday of the Thirteenth Week in Ordinary Time
“Your sins are forgiven!” These words bring consolation to those of us who understand that we need forgiveness, and who understand that we have sinned. For someone who has not understood either sin or forgiveness, it could seem like mere words or like something unimportant. We don’t know exactly what thoughts passed through the mind of the paralytic because he remained silent, but Jesus’ first words to him were not about curing his paralysis. The man didn’t seem to ask for forgiveness, nor did he seem to come to Jesus looking for anything other than a cure. Certainly Jesus reads hearts and minds, however, and provides the man immediately with the treatment that corresponds to his greatest suffering. The physical suffering may have incited the man to ask to be brought to Jesus, then again, the man may have discerned the greater moral suffering he endured from his sins and relied on his physical disability to be brought by others to Jesus.