Monday, 18 May 2020 06:00

Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of Our Faith

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Look to Jesus, Pioneer of our faith (Heb 2:10; 12:2). Contemplating Jesus Christ we can be strengthened by His Presence in times of joy and in especially in times of suffering. Jesus accepted, bore, and offered to the Father His joys and His sufferings. 

 Jesus was the happiest of men! It was a joy and cause of thanksgiving for Him to live with His faithful disciples, and above all His Most Pure Mother. Jesus Christ, like no other, saw the good and beauty of creation, then raised up His Heart to God the Father in thanksgiving. Who like Jesus was filled by the Father’s presence and the consolation of the Holy Spirit? 

Yet, on the other hand, Jesus is also the Man of Sorrows, who suffered evil most sensibly and deeply. Who like Jesus suffered in His Heart of the God-man the evils He saw in the world, especially moral, put even physical evils like sickness and death! Jesus wept before the sorrow of Martha and Mary and the tomb where Lazarus was buried. Jesus Himself suffered terribly in the Garden of Gethsemane before the evil of sin and His own sufferings.

However, Jesus also saw suffering in the light of the redemption and the glory of His own Passover through death to the definitive life of the Resurrection. Death and suffering do not have the final word. We too are in a Passover from this life to eternal life. In the letter to the Hebrews the author explains that we still do not see man in full glory with all things subject to Him, but we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

—Death—a word that people don’t want to talk about. We should learn to meditate death like the saints did. In so many works of art a saint is accompanied in the picture by a skull or holds it in his hand as a sign that he or she meditated regularly on this reality. We should also be ready for our daily “death” in denying ourselves and doing the good that is difficult. 

The book of Ecclesiastes says:

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; (Eccl. 3:1-4).

God is good to us; creation and redemption are gifts. We have been created by him and received so many good and awe inspiring things. Yet we also see physical evils in this world, and what is much worse, the presence and influence of moral evils for which man is responsible. This world is not complete and whoever wishes this world to be a complete paradise is defrauded. However, if we live our Christian life in faith, hope, and love, by God’s goodness we already experience in this life death and resurrection.

We are called to unite ourselves to Christ in His Passover. The reality of living redemptive suffering and uniting our sufferings to Christ is very difficult. We have a natural repulse to suffering. Christ naturally felt a great struggle in Gethsemane before the awesome suffering of His passion and death. Christ sees our weakness and fragility and does not leave us abandoned. We need to turn to him, and ask for more faith, hope, and love. This is one of the greatest battles but one of the most important.

We should learn to receive gratefully and lovingly so many blessings we receive and at the same time accept with trust and love hardships such as sickness or the loss of a loved one. That something bad befalls us does not mean God does not love us. Even the contrary is true. God knows how much a trial or suffering can purify us, help our sanctification, and serve for the salvation and sanctification of others. St. John Chrysostom commenting on the sickness of Lazarus in the Gospel of John says that when the Gospel says, “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus,” “that we should never be discontented or vexed if any sickness happen to good men, and such as are dear to God.”

One kind of suffering is that of abnegation, or self-denial, that we voluntarily chose and is necessary for our spiritual and human growth. However, there are other sufferings we do not choose or seek like the sickness of Lazarus. These are the harder sufferings to live, accept, and offer with love and faith. However, while it is one of the greatest battles, because of that it is also one of the greatest victories. 

Saint Teresa of Avila suffered a very serious illness for years when she was a young nun. She was bed-ridden for a year and slowly recovered from a paralysis during three years. Of course they put all the means they had to help her recover, but her recovery was slow. This sickness helped purify her though she still did not have her definitive conversion. St. John of Avila, the apostle of Andalusia, teacher of saints, lived the last 16 years of his life with difficult sickness. He was no longer able to work like before, but even limited by his sickness and unable to travel like before he adapted to the situation and continued to fruitfully help and guide many people. 

St. John Paul II in his encyclical Salvifici Doloris gives us a great summary of the meaning of suffering and its mystery which is illuminated by Christ. Yet he affirms that it still remains partly impenetrable to our understanding. In his conclusion to the encyclical he begins with two profound meanings of suffering:

This is the meaning of suffering, which is truly supernatural and at the same time human. It is supernatural because it is rooted in the divine mystery of the Redemption of the world, and it is likewise deeply human, because in it the person discovers himself, his own humanity, his own dignity, his own mission.

Suffering is certainly part of the mystery of man. Perhaps suffering is not wrapped up as much as man is by this mystery, which is an especially impenetrable one. The Second Vatican Council expressed this truth that "...only in the mystery of the Incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light. In fact..., Christ, the final Adam, by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and his love, fully reveals man to himself and makes his supreme calling clear"(100). If these words refer to everything that concerns the mystery of man, then they certainly refer in a very special way to human suffering. Precisely at this point the "revealing of man to himself and making his supreme vocation clear" is particularly indispensable. It also happens as experience proves—that this can be particularly dramatic. But when it is completely accomplished and becomes the light of human life, it is particularly blessed. "Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful"(SD 101).

These reflections of St. John Paul II should help us more easily accept suffering. Sacred scripture, especially the Psalms, are also a great source of wisdom on suffering. However, they do not explain it away. It will in part remain for us a mystery, especially when it visits us in our life unexpectedly. Perhaps, the key is to not only focus on our sufferings and difficulties but to look toward the Lord who has loved us and suffered for us and with us. This brings us back to Jesus Christ. He is the pioneer of our faith because he shows us in the faith that the tribulation and suffering of this time is part of the passage for all God’s children to that final glory.

Another key for living our suffering in a redemptive and sanctifying even curative way is a holy acceptance of our sufferings. St. Paul of the Cross explains that when the cross comes it is better to receive it; when we try to rid ourselves of any cross and do not accept the cross readily we make it even worse.

We need to seek God’s Will trusting in His mercy and goodness. Returning finally to the letter to the Hebrews, chapter 10, the author describes:

When Christ came into the world, he said:

“Sacrifices and offerings thou hast not desired,

But a body hast thou prepared for me;

In burnt offerings and sin offerings thou hast taken no pleasure.

Then I said, ‘Lo, I have come to do thy will, O God,’

As it is written of me in the roll of the book.”

When he said above, “Thou hast neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings: (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Lo, I have come to do thy will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10: 5-10).

The last line is the key: “And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Body here signifies not only His body of flesh, but His entire human life. We are sanctified by His offering of His life for us. We too, according to God’s will in our lives, are called to be sanctified and sanctify through our sufferings united to Jesus Christ. In this way we will be taken up with Christ “crowned with glory and honor.” 

God the Father was not cruel with Jesus in the passion, he compassioned in a mysterious way with Jesus who manifested the sorrow and pain of God for our separation from God caused by the evil of sin. God, Our Father, may permit or even will certain sufferings in our lives that are very difficult. However, His last will for us is our glorification, like it was for His Son Jesus Christ. We should let sufferings teach us spiritually and humanely. The Church, the wisdom of the saints, the sacraments, a wise director, are some of the means that we should take advantage of in the measure we can, as much as possible. In our prayer we may need to look to Jesus as the pioneer and guide of our faith. We should also look to Mary, the first of all disciples and Our Mother. We should abandon ourselves to Their Hearts with dependence on God’s grace and a total trust. Jesus wants to lead us to His kingdom and glory, we need to trust in Him. Lord increase our faith and our trust!

Article contributed by Father Andrew Krische, SHM

I finished and sent this article on April 14. On April 15, late during the morning, I received the tragic news that one of the Servant Brother priests of the Home of the Mother had died. My article in merit is very poor. Fr. Henry’s passing from this life is an article of faith written by his donation and love.

Fr. Henry was a very loved brother and priest and helped many people, myself included. He exercised his priesthood in Spain, the United States, Ecuador, Canada, and other countries. He had been suffering more acutely for years from the epilepsy he had from birth. A pharmaceutical drug that worked perfectly for him had been discontinued some time after he had joined the servant brothers and the new medicines didn’t have the same effect. Two years ago I was one of the two brothers that witnessed an epileptic seizure in which he fell and broke his jaw bone and teeth. I had to clean up where he fell and had the experience that I was like Mary cleaning the Blood of her Son after the scourging in the movie the Passion. That fall actually happened on the third Sunday of Easter 2018. After this, it was clear, through certain signs as well, that the Lord was uniting Fr. Henry to himself in reparation and for the redemption of souls. It doesn’t mean it was easy, but Fr. Henry lived it well and even with a great sense of humor. During these last two years you could notice that Fr. Henry was deeper and more serene despite more epileptic seizures, limitation, and sufferings. He also continued being full of life and zeal. During his last week he was serving as a chaplain for a convent of Carmelite nuns near Amposta, Spain, The Convent Sacred Heart of Jesus. The nuns said it was like being in heaven being served by Fr. Henry who gave them talks, exposed the Blessed Sacrament, celebrated Mass, etc. The day before he died, the same day I sent my poor article, he said to the sisters: “I am so happy I could go to heaven right now.” He, like Jesus, with Jesus, in Jesus, is a “pioneer” for us in the faith, in hope, and in love. Despite the sorrow, his death is immediately becoming a time of grace and helping us to grow in our faith. Thanks be to God.