by Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P.
was not in the Plan of God that Suffering and
Death be a part of Human Existence. That they became the Lot of the Human Race was not
God's doing, but Man's. God made Man in
His own Likeness and Image, desiring to share with him His own
Infinite Happiness and Goodness.
He endowed Man with Special Gifts that made him Immune from all
Suffering, and free of the necessity of undergoing
Death. These Gifts, however, were not essential to Human Nature
and could be Lost.
God endowed Man with Free-Will, in order
that Man would have to Freely Choose God above all things, before entering into the
Beatitude of Heaven. But, as we know, it was Man's
Free-Will that Upset what God had planned, for our First Parents
Rebelled against the Restriction placed on their Freedom, wishing to decide for themselves
what they could do or not do. As a result, they not only were not admitted into Heaven,
but they Lost for themselves and their descendants those
Gifts that made them Immune from Suffering and
The Need of Redemption
Because of his Sin, Adam was utterly
Displeasing to God, and because of the
Loss of Grace he was unable to do anything that would win
God's Favor. God could have left Mankind
in that Helpless State of Eternal Separation from
Himself; or He could simply have
Pardoned Man, Restoring all the
Gifts he had Lost. But God
would accept neither of those Solutions.
In His Mercy, He sent
His Only Begotten Son to become a Member of the Human Race to offer, on behalf of Mankind, the
Infinite Reparation that Divine Justice demanded. The
Divine Word took on a Human Body and
Soul in order that He could Suffer to
Pay the Penalty that a Just God demanded in
Expiation for the Sins of the World. Because
He was Man, He could
Pay the Debt on the part of the Human Race; and because He was
God, the Reparation
He offered was Infinite (∞).
Why the Passion?
Christ could have offered sufficient
Reparation without the Passion, for
His very Deliberate Act was one of Infinite Love, sufficient to
Redeem the Whole of Mankind. But the Father Willed
the way of the Passion, the way of Suffering.
Saint Thomas Aquinas explains why:
(Tertia Pars-48,1, ad 2).
Passion made God's Love for us so-much more Manifest,
Suffering so-much on our behalf. "You have been bought at a Great Price"
(1Corinthians 6:20). "Greater Love than this no man has . . . "
(John 15:13). By His Passion,
Man is stirred to Love God in return, and in this
Love of God, lies Man's
Passion helps Man to realize the
Enormous Evil of Sin, when God would go to
such length to make Reparation for it.
Passion helps us to see more clearly the Justice of God,
Who Willed the Death of His Own Son
to Repair for Sin; and the
Mercy of God in the way He applies to
Sinners the Merits of Christ's
Passion gives such a wonderful example of Humility and
Obedience, those Indispensable Virtues in
Loving God. Through PRIDE and
DISOBEDIENCE Adam refused God the
Love and Homage due Him.
Through HUMILITY and OBEDIENCE,
Christ offered His Father the
Love and Submission due Him.
Passion shows clearly the Immense Love of Jesus for His
Father, Whom He Obeyed "even to the Death of the
Cross" (Philippians 2:8). When Christ went-forth to the
Passion, He told the Apostles that
He did so "That the World may know that I Love the Father"
Passion of Christ was especially valuable in teaching the necessity of
Suffering, if Fallen Man (having the use of
Reason) is to attain his Eternal Salvation.
Additional Scriptural Passages clearly testify to the need of the
Passion in fulfillment of the Divine Plan:
Son of Man must be lifted up, that whosoever believes in Him may not perish, but have Everlasting Life"
I not drink the Cup that the Father has given Me?" (John 18:11)
not Christ to have Suffered these things, and so enter into His Glory?" (Luke 24:26)
His Disciples before the Ascension: "Recall those
Words I spoke to you when I was still with you; everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms had to
be fulfilled . . . .Thus it is written that the Messiah must Suffer and Rise again from the Dead" (Luke 24:44,46).
Our Sharing in the Redemption
By the Sufferings in His Human Nature
during the Passion by which Mankind was Redeemed,
Christ gave to all Suffering experienced in the
Members of His Mystical Body a Redeeming Power
when Accepted and Offered-up in Union with His Passion.
As Pope John Paul II wrote:
"In bringing about the Redemption through Suffering, Christ raised Human Suffering to the level of
the Redemption. Thus each man, in his Sufferings, can also become a Sharer in the Redemptive Suffering of Christ"
Speaking on one occasion to a group of Infirm Persons
Suffering from various Illnesses and
Handicaps, the present Holy Father (JPII) recalled the Great
Mercy of Christ in the many times He Miraculously Cured the
Lame, the Blind, the
Deaf, the Leprous, etc.; and how, to Save the Newly-Weds
Embarrassment, He Miraculously changed Water into Wine. But, he said, there is here
an even Greater Miracle, a Greater Mercy - when
He gives to Human Suffering a
Supernatural Value. All the Miracles mentioned were
changes on the purely Natural Level; that is, the Gift given in each
Miracle was some Benefit of the Natural Order. But when He transforms Human
Suffering giving it a Supernatural Value, a
Supernatural Power, that is a far-greater Gift, a
far-greater Miracle. But it is a Gift so-little
Appreciated, for it is known only in the Light of Faith; and the
Faith of many is Weak. How many opportunities for
Spiritual Growth and for Helping others are Wasted in
Complaining about the Crosses of Life.
Bishop Fulton J. Sheen's Prayer below, strongly emphasizes this fact.
Prayer of Redemptive Sharing
by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
I give myself to God.
Here is my body. Take it.
Here is my blood. Take it.
Here is my Soul, my Will, my Energy, my Strength,
My Property, my Wealth - all that I have. It is Yours.
Take it! Offer it! Offer it with Thyself to the Heavenly Father
In order that He, looking down on this Great Sacrifice,
May see only Thee, His Beloved Son, in Whom He is well pleased.
Transmute the poor bread of my life into Thy Divine Life;
Thrill the wine of my wasted Life into Thy Divine Spirit;
Unite my broken Heart with Thy Heart;
Change my Cross into a Crucifix.
Let not my Abandonment, and my Sorrow, and my Bereavement go to waste.
Gather up the fragments,
And as the drop of water is absorbed by the Wine at the Offertory of the Mass,
Let my life be absorbed in Thee;
Let my little cross be entwined with Thy Great Cross,
so that I may purchase the Joys of Everlasting Happiness in union with Thee.
Consecrate these Trials of my life which would go unrewarded unless united with Thee;
Transubstantiate me so that like bread which is now Thy Body,
And wine which is now Thy Blood, I too may be wholly Thee.
I care not if the Species remain, or that, like the bread and the wine,
I seem to all earthly eyes the same as before.
My Station in Life, my Routine Duties, my Work, my Family -
All these are but the Species of my life which may remain unchanged;
But the Substance of my life, my Soul, my Mind, my Will, my Heart -
Transubstantiate them, transform them wholly into Thy service,
So that through me all may know how sweet is the Love of Christ.
Filling Up What is Lacking
Saint Paul was so filled with the idea of the Redemptive Power of
Suffering that he exclaimed: "I find Joy in the Sufferings I
endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the Sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church"
Those words of Saint Paul are a Puzzle to some, for they seem to imply that something
is Lacking in the Passion of
Christ. Saint Paul is speaking here of the Mystical
Body of Christ, made up of Christ, the Head, and
all Souls in the State of Grace who are the
Members of His Body. It is in the Members of His
Body that something is Lacking. Shortly before
He Died, Christ exclaimed:
"It is consummated!". He says in effect:
"All is accomplished that I came to do. By My painful obedience to the Father I offered Infinite Reparation for
the Sins of Mankind, and Merited the Restoration of Grace for the whole Human Race". There is no
Grace that comes to any Human that was not Merited by
Him. He had no need of any other in
Redeeming the Human Race. But Jesus Willed
that the Mystery of His
Passion continue on in us, so that we may be Associated with Him in the
Work of Redemption. Jesus could have accomplished
this alone, but He Willed to need us in order to Apply the
Infinite Merits of His Passion
to Souls. Pope Pius XII spoke of this in his
Encyclical on the Mystical Body:
"In carrying out the Work of Redemption, Christ wishes to be helped by the Members of His Body.
This is not because He is Indigent or Weak, but rather because He so willed it for the greater Glory of His Spotless Spouse. Dying
on the Cross, He left to the Church the Immense Treasury of the Redemption. Towards this She (the Church) contributed nothing. But
when those Graces come to be distributed, not only does He share this task of Sanctification with His Church, but He wants it, in a
way, to be due to Her Action. What a deep mystery . . . that the Salvation of many depends on the Prayers and Voluntary Penances
which the Members of the Mystical Body offer for that intention, and on the assistance of Pastors of Souls and of the Faithful,
especially Fathers and Mothers of Families, which they must offer to our Divine Savior as though they were His Associates".
Think of it. By Accepting Willingly and without
Complaint the little Inconveniences,
Irritations, Frustrations, Delays,
Setbacks, etc. which God in
His Providence allows to come our way, we can Pay, in-part, the
Debt that we, or others, have Incurred by our Sins.
Because God is Just,
He demands that the Debt-of-Suffering
be Paid, but because He is
Merciful, He allows
One (1) Person to "fill up what is lacking" in
Another Member of the Mystical Body which is the
Church. As Saint Thomas Aquinas says, "by the cooperation of
Christ's Satisfaction, much Lighter Penalty suffices than one that is proportionate to the sin"
(Tertia Pars-49,3, ad 2).
Embrace The Cross
The Cross was the Instrument chosen by God
for the Redemption of Mankind. That is why Our Savior
refers to the Hardships and Fatigue and
Trials of Daily Life as the "Cross" that we
must Embrace if we are to be His Disciples. Accepting them in Union with the
Passion of Christ gives them a
Redeeming Power, a Redeeming Value, a share
in the Fruits of His
Passion. The Cross can include everything that goes against-the-grain, and
that can be an endless list. To mention a few examples: Physical Pain,
Mental Anguish, Disappointments,
Depression, Humiliations, Delays,
Set-backs in business, Loneliness, being
Misunderstood or Falsely Accused,
Hardships and Fatigue of Daily Routine,
Sadness at Death
of family member or friend, the Difficult Sacrifices in fulfilling
God's Commandments and the duties in our state in life, etc. All these entail
Suffering, and are part of the Penalty of
Sin of our Fallen Nature.
We naturally try to eliminate all forms of Suffering from our life, but insofar as they
are beyond our power to control, they are part of God's Providence.
God foresees them, allows them, and can bring Good out of them if we Trust in
Him. Suffering in some form or other is the
Lot of every Human, Saint as well as Sinner. But since our Attitude toward them can make
them Profitable or Unprofitable (even increase our Misery), it is important to see them in
the Light of the Gospel, in the Light of God's
Providence. That is because Suffering can get one down, or it can
bring one closer to God. It can make one Resentful
and Bitter - even blaming God for his Lot,
or it can make one more conscious of God's Providence at work. It can make one turn
in on himself in Self-Pity, or it can help one to open out upon the World in
Apostolic and Redemptive Action.
That Suffering is not something Good in
itself, is clear from the Great Number of Christian Institutions (Hospitals, Sanitariums, etc.) established to alleviate Human
Suffering. While the Ills and
Hardships and Setbacks of Life can be Instrumental in
Spiritual Growth, in themselves they are something Evil.
Christians are not Forbidden to seek the Comforts of Life, or to enjoy Lawful Amusements, or to seek Remedies from
Pain. The Church does not glorify
Suffering for its own sake; but it does Glorify
God by the Loving acceptance of
Suffering when the fulfillment of His Will entails it.
Testimony of the Pope
We have already mentioned
the Holy Father's frequent comments on the Salvific Value of
Suffering when addressing the Sick and
Disabled. He wrote at length on that topic in his
Letter Salvifici Doloris in which he remarked:
"Christ does not speak in the Abstract . . . . He says: "FOLLOW ME! Come! Take part through your
Suffering in this Work of Saving the World, a Salvation achieved through My Suffering . . . through My Cross. . . ."
"Without the Vision of Faith one has a sense of the uselessness of Suffering.
This feeling not only consumes the person interiorly, but makes him feel a burden to others . . . and
useless to himself. The discovery of the Salvific Meaning of Suffering in union with Christ transforms this depressing feeling.
Faith in sharing the Suffering of Christ brings with it the interior certainty the Suffering Person 'completes what is lacking in
Christs afflictions'; the certainty that in the Spiritual Dimension of the Work of Revelation he is serving, like Christ, the
Salvation of his Brothers and Sisters. Therefore he is carrying out an Irreplaceable Service".
In the Divine Plan, Mary was destined to
share in a unique way in the Redemptive Mission of
her Son, and therefore in His
Suffering. She received an early confirmation of
this at the words of Simeon that a Sword of Sorrow would
Pierce her heart. On Calvary,
Mary's Suffering, beside the
Suffering of Jesus, reached an intensity
which can hardly be imagined from a Human Point of View, but which was Supernaturally Fruitful
for the Redemption of the World. As the application of the
Fruits of the Redemption will continue until the end of the World, so will the
unique role of Mary in the distribution of those Graces.
Pope John Paul II speaks of this in relation to the Immaculate Heart of the
Mother of God:
"The Divine Redeemer wishes to penetrate the Soul of every Sufferer through the Heart of His Holy
Mother, the First and Most Exalted of all the Redeemed. As though by a continuation of that Motherhood which by the Power of the Holy
Spirit had given Him Life, the dying Christ conferred upon the ever Virgin Mary a new kind of Motherhood - Spiritual and Universal -
towards all Human Beings, so that every individual, during the Pilgrimage of Faith, might remain together with her, closely united
to Him unto the Cross, and so that every form of Suffering, given fresh life by the Power of the Cross, should become no longer the
Weakness of Man but the Power of the Cross" (ibid.).
Not My Will . . .
In spite of Jesusí Willing Acceptance of the
Passion, and His insistence that His
followers must embrace the "Crosses" of Life,
His Human Nature shrank from Pain just as ours does. We see that
in the Garden of Gethsemani; yet He Willingly
accepted it when commanded by His Heavenly Father. "I seek
not My own Will, but the Will of Him Who sent Me" (John 5:30). The same should be the goal of
His followers. Those sincerely seeking to grow closer to
Christ know that it must be by way of the Cross. Each day brings many
little opportunities to submit Willingly to various kinds of
Self-giving that go against the grain. Like Christ, we too can
Pray in certain Painful Situations,
"let this chalice pass from me" as long as we are willing to add
"nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42).