Being Christ-like and suffering

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

“IS he (Christ) not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ?” (Jn 7,25-26)

With these words in the gospel of St. John, we are somehow reminded that if we truly want to be like Christ as we should, we have to expect suffering, for which we have to learn to lose the fear of it.

Christ knew from the start of his redemptive life here on earth that he had to suffer and to die for the sins of men. When it was not yet the time to do so, he managed to escape from the hands of those who tried to do him harm. But when the time to consummate his mission on earth came, he made himself totally available for the culminating redemptive act of his passion and death on the cross.

We should try to assume the same mind and spirit with respect to the ultimate purpose of our life here on earth. We are not meant only to achieve some earthly and temporal success. Our real success is when we managed to be like Christ all the way, that is, when we would be willing to suffer and die for the sins of men in general, ours and those of everybody else.

Thus, we need to learn how to lose the fear of suffering and death. In fact, we have to learn to see suffering and death as the ultimate means of our salvation, of achieving the perfection of our humanity, which is to be like Christ (alter Christus), if not Christ himself (ipse Christus).

If we believe in Christ and follow what he has taught and shown us, we will realize that there is nothing to be afraid of suffering and death, and all the other negative things that can mark our life.

He bore them himself and converted them into our way for our own salvation. Yes, even death which is the ultimate evil that can befall us, an evil that is humanly insoluble. With Christ’s death, the curse of death has been removed. “Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (1 Cor 15,54-55)

So, we just have to be sport and cool about the whole reality of suffering and death. What we need to do is to follow Christ in his attitude toward them. For Christ, embracing suffering and ultimately death, is the expression of his greatest love for us. We have to enter into the dynamic of this divine logic and wisdom so we can lose that fear of suffering and death.

Thus, we have to understand this very well. Unless we love the cross, we can never say that we are loving enough. Of course, we have to qualify that assertion. It’s when we love the cross the way God wills it—the way Christ loves it—that we can really say that we are loving as we should, or loving with the fullness of love.

We have to be wary of our tendency to limit our loving to ways and forms that give us some benefits alone, be it material, moral or spiritual. While they are also a form of love, they are not yet the fullness of love.