September 5, 2011 - Monday of the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time

Today's Readings

What was lacking in the afflictions of Christ? He suffered torture and death and the weight of all of our sins. No one has ever suffered as he has suffered, but St. Paul tells us that he is “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” What could be lacking? Nothing at all, except what we hold back: ourselves. The suffering of Jesus Christ is perfect, but until we join ourselves to that suffering, we, ourselves, are what is lacking in the suffering of Christ.

It is not as if God wishes us to suffer. We see in the Gospel today the solicitude of our Lord for the man with the withered hand, but our suffering can be mere suffering or it can be something holy and salvific. It is by suffering that we are joined to the Body of Christ, if we offer our suffering as a holy oblation to the Lord.

Whether the suffering is little or great, whether it is the arthritis in our knees or the suffering of a sickness that will end in death, whether it is getting up early in the morning to go to work or being and immigrant working thousands of miles away from friends and family, we all have to suffer. Suffering is a given fact in this fallen world, but do we run from suffering, from our cross, or do we embrace our suffering as the Lord embraced his Cross. The Lord tells us, “If anyone wants to follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.

Whatever suffering you have, unite it to the suffering of Christ and you will be united to Christ. We do not want to suffer, but more importantly, we do not want to suffer meaninglessly. Consider the difference between the suffering of a person injured in a stupid fight and the suffering of a woman in labor. Consider the difference between the suffering of a slave who must work for another and the suffering of a man who works to provide for his family.

All suffering can be meaningful if it is joined to the suffering of Christ. By choosing to offer our suffering, whatever the cause, as an acceptable sacrifice to the Lord, we make our mundane suffering something remarkable. Then, we too can say that we rejoice in suffering, every new ache and pain and struggle becomes an opportunity to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice.