Tag Archives: Suffering

Christian Copycat

In Bible Study last week we just finished up our study of St. Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians. During our time together, it struck me how many times the subject of “imitation” is raised in the letter. In this post I’d like to take a brief survey of these references.

Likeness in Jesus Alone?

The first example of imitation and mimicry appears in the very first chapter of the epistle:

And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit… – 1 Thessalonians 1:6

This is typically the verse that I reach for when speaking with Christians who object to the Catholic devotion to Saints, and who tell me that “The only person we need to imitate is Jesus”. Clearly, this wasn’t the opinion of St. Paul, who speaks proudly of how his fledgling congregation imitates, not only Lord, but also the senders of this letter (Paul, Timothy and Silas).

In that first chapter Paul describes himself as a nursing mother and a loving father:

But we were gentle… among you, like a nurse taking care of her children… for you know how, like a father with his children – 1 1 Thessalonians 2:7,11

Given these loving parental terms, it’s hardly surprising that the Thessalonians began to imitate the evangelists.

Mimics

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Music Monday: Blessings

This week’s Music Monday entry is “Blessings” from Laura Story, a profound song which attempts to answer, in part, the hardest question of the Christian life: why does God allow suffering?

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
And we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough
All the while, You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

When friends betray us
When darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops,
What if Your healing comes through tears?

And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if my greatest disappointments
or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?
And what if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest nights are Your mercies in disguise?

What should I say?

The other day a friend of mine sent me a text message saying her coworker was mourning. It was the anniversary of her husband’s death in Afghanistan. Her coworker was asking the question: “Why would God let this happen?”. My friend asked “What should I say?”Here’s the text message I wrote in reply:

I would say something like “I could talk about some of the different reasons why bad things happen to good people (fallen world, free will, sinful man, God’s plan etc.), but the truth is I don’t know… None of us fully comprehends why terrible things like this happen.

What I do know is that God is the expert at drawing good out of bad, bringing healing out of pain. When Jesus hung on the cross it looked to the world like defeat, but out of the cross came victory over death so Jesus endured it for love of the world.

Your husband, no doubt,  joined the military because he thought that it was the right thing to do, to protect the country and people he loved. Jesus did the same.

I can’t explain specifically WHY your husband died, but I CAN say that, if Jesus’ death shows us anything, it’s that suffering is not meaningless and that great acts of love and sacrifice can change the world”

When we encounter someone who is suffering, there is always the temptation to talk about big theological concepts of God’s will, His sovereignty and the fallen nature of humanity. However, in my experience, when people are suffering, this kind of talk is neither helpful nor comforting. We can only point them to the Cross. Apart from the Cross, suffering has no meaning or purpose.

Even then, words are often ineffective. Actions speak much louder. When someone is suffering and I don’t know what to say, there’s a temptation to just avoid that person since I can’t “do” anything. We must fight that temptation! Sometimes all I really need to do is just show up. Be there for my friend. Listen to her. Cry with her. Pray with her. If that person is English, make a cup of tea :-)

The presence of a friend during a time of suffering speaks much more loudly of the love of God than any words ever could. Love them like Jesus.


Mark Hall, Casting Crowns

Suffering – Part 3: Attitude

Having established that suffering is an inevitable part of life and that it can be used both for our transformation and the glory of God, we now consider the attitude we should adopt when going through times of trial and temptation….

pain

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Sunday Lectionary: Holy Anticipation

5th Sunday Of Lent: 23rd March, 2012

As this Lenten season reaches its climax, our Sunday Mass Readings are filled with anticipation.

In the First Reading, the Prophet Jeremiah speaks of a time to come when God would make a new kind of covenant with His people, one dramatically different from the ones made before. Under this new covenant the exiled tribes would be gathered together. It would signal a new era and a new level of intimacy with the Lord. After hearing these words of Jeremiah, God’s people waited in eager anticipation of this promised future.

In our Gospel Reading, Jesus is approached by some Greeks. At their arrival Jesus declares that “The hour has come…”. The “hour” of which Jesus speaks refers to His Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension. With the coming of this “hour”, what was promised through the Prophet Jeremiah will finally reach fulfillment through Christ. Not only will the Children of Israel be gathered together, but so too will all people, “wash[ed]…and cleanse[d]” as we sing in today’s psalm.

Jesus says that He must die in order to bring eternal life. If Jesus is the Head of the Church, then His Body must do likewise:

Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – John 12:25

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead – Philippians 3:10

The new life which Jesus brought to mankind is made present to us at every Mass in the Blessed Sacrament. Sometime this week, in preparation for Easter, why not spend an additional Holy Hour asking for the grace to live a life in imitation of our Lord?

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