The Consolation of the Christian Faith

ChelseaReligion, SufferingLeave a Comment

A great quote I found last week:

Jesus suffers to carry out the will of the Father. And you, who also want to carry out the most holy will of God, following the steps of the Master, can you complain if you meet suffering on your way? St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way n. 213

Another Christian man once told me, regarding my disability, “it’s a good thing you’re Catholic.” He was referring, no doubt, to the history of the Church and it’s members embracing suffering for the sake of the cross, but really all Christians have the same consolation and should rejoice to be in such company:

“The true shepherd is one who knows even the path that passes through the valley of death; one who walks with me even on the path of final solitude, where no one can accompany me, guiding me through: he himself has walked this path, he has descended into the kingdom of death, he has conquered death, and he has returned to accompany us now and to give us the certainty that, together with him, we can find a way through.” (Spe Salvi, n. 6)

Instead of complaining or violating human dignity to escape or avoid pain we must realize that we are not alone in our sufferings. Indeed, when we suffer we are even closer to the Redeemer through the power of the Cross.

“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Mt. 16:24-25)
“For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I a weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinth 12:10)
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Pet 1:6-7)

The Christian faith has shown us that truth, justice and love are not simply ideals, but enormously weighty realities. It has shown us that God —Truth and Love in person—desired to suffer for us and with us. Bernard of Clairvaux coined the marvellous expression: Impassibilis est Deus, sed non incompassibilis[29]—God cannot suffer, but he can suffer with. Man is worth so much to God that he himself became man in order to suffer with man in an utterly real way—in flesh and blood—as is revealed to us in the account of Jesus’s Passion. Hence in all human suffering we are joined by one who experiences and carries that suffering with us; hence con-solatio is present in all suffering, the consolation of God’s compassionate love—and so the star of hope rises. (Spe Salve, n. 39)

This encyclical is a must read, especially for those who feel hopeless and alone in their suffering. What’s that? Okay…I’ll put up one more quote!

It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love[3]. (SS, n. 5)

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