NOTE: Soon, I hope to resume posting brief commentaries or reflections on each Sunday's Mass readings on this blog, as I did on my previous one. I was going to write one for today, but after hearing the homily of Fr. Germain Swisshelm, O.S.B., at today's Mass in the Archabbey Church, I decided I could do no better. Graciously, he gave me a copy, which follows. As I listened to these words in light of today's Gospel, a number of people came to mind: Fr. Rupert, who is in the hospital with a broken neck; Fr. Richard who is also in the hospital; and two monks whose feast days we celebrated today--Fr. Augustine, who is recovering from a stroke, and Fr. Aurelius, who suffers dementia. In addition, I considered my confreres who are suffering in various ways, known or unknown. I thought of my mother, who is recovering from back surgery, and many other relatives and friends facing one challenge or another. I thought of a very dear friend who has faithfully persevered in many respects. And I thought of all the others throughout the world who suffer silently and anonymously in ways many of us cannot begin to imagine. Where is Christ in all this? Fr. German provides the answer. -- Br. Francis
Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time--A
Jeremiah 20:7-9Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone wants to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me."
For us Christians, the cross means suffering, pain, humiliations; it means sickness, physical or mental illness. All this, the Lord warns us, lies in store for one who wants to become his follower.
According to the gospels, Jesus cured great numbers of sick and crippled people during his three-year ministry. But even so, there were thousands more who went uncured because they never had a chance to approach him. In our own time, there are saintly persons who have had power to cure sick persons miraculously. Think of St. Padre Pio, the Italian Capuchin, who cured people of every imaginable malady, many of them with terminal illnesses. But still, there are millions of others equally deserving who spend their whole lives in mental hospitals, in wheelchairs, in physcial or mental anguish, and who never receive a miraculous healing, though they are special objects of God's love and compassion.
We search Scripture to understand why some few are cured, but the majority must spend their whole lives patiently enduring their unrelenting sickness or crippledness.
The gospels themselves do throw some light on this question. All those sick people that Jesus did cure had a mission in life: to provide our Lord the occasion to show his power and to prove the divine origin of his ministry. But what about the millions of sick, lame, blind, the alcoholics, the addicted, persons whose life is a continual struggle with temptation? Do they have no mission from the Lord? How must suffering persons find a meaning to their seemingly unfulfilled lives? Or is there no rhyme or reason at all to suffering?
Such persons must be convinced that they do have a mission. Suffering Christians are like ordained ministers. They, by their patience, preach Christ to the world in a unique way. By their patient acceptance of suffering, they are one with Christ on the cross, who knew pain by personal experience. The work of redemption is being carried on by their participation in the cross of Christ. Christ goes on redeeming the world through them. Their sufferings, lovingly borne, are divine, supernatural acts. Their degree of participation in Christ's work of redemption is determined by the degree of their love for him and their union with the divine will.
The gospel tells us, therefore, that it is not a mere accident of fate that there are crippled, sick, and suffering persons in the world. They are special agents of God and their lives are filled with meaning because in each of them the redemptive activity of Christ continues for the salvation of humankind.
The world had to wait for our Lord to come, to show us the value of suffering by his willingly dying on the cross. He asks the sick and suffering of today to make some response to so much love, and their response takes the form of a patient and generous acceptance of his divine will.
Let us praise God's great wisdom and love in providing his Church with this special order of ministers, i.e., persons who patiently endure physical, psychological, or spiritual pain in union with our Lord's own sufferings on the cross. If anyone here is a member of this select group, you must take courage and not lose heart. Your patient suffering in union with Christ is bringing about the salvation of the world.
--Fr. Germain Swisshelm, O.S.B.