By Fr. Roy Cimagala
THE fact that Christ immediately talked about his impending passion and death after being rightly identified by Peter as the “the Christ” (cfr. Mk 8,27-33) tells us that suffering and death, which are unavoidable in our life here on earth, are actually good news to all of us. If understood and experienced properly, they identify us with Christ and attain for us our own eternal salvation.
This gospel episode, of course, tells us that if we truly follow Christ, then like him, we should not only expect suffering and death but also welcome them. That’s because in the first place we cannot avoid suffering and death in this life, no matter how much we try. But more importantly, if we have the same attitude Christ had toward his suffering and death, we know that our own would have a positive and redemptive value.
This is what Christian suffering and death is all about. It is a consequence of all our sins but is now converted into a means of our salvation, that is, if we suffer and die with Christ.
We need to understand well this basic truth of our faith so that we can avoid suffering unduly or suffering more than we ought. In other words, this truth of our faith enables us to suffer and die properly.
We all need to be reminded that all our suffering has a positive and favorable aspect. It’s not all entirely bad and negative, though in itself it will always be bad. But if viewed and lived through our Christian faith, that is, with Christ, there is something in it that can give us a greater good.
Our pains and suffering are always the result of sin, ours and those of the others. They are the necessary consequence of our separation, whether temporary or permanent, from God from whom all good things come. (cfr. Ps 16,2; James 1,17) We may not be the direct cause of our own suffering, but in this world, we cannot escape the effects of sin, and so we must be ready for them just the same.
We have to remind ourselves that we are not meant to suffer. Our original as well as our ideal definitive state in heaven excludes suffering. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were in the state of original justice, where everything was in order and in harmony. No pain and suffering touched them, until they fell into sin.
We have to remind everyone that when we suffer, we should see to it that we avoid suffering by our own lonesome. That would make our suffering, whatever may be its cause, whether it is self-inflicted or caused by others, a useless and purely negative event.
Truth is our suffering can have tremendous meaning and positive effect on us if we go through it always with Christ. If we go by our Christian faith, we are sure that Christ is ever willing to suffer for us and with us, and to convert our suffering into the very means of our salvation, in fact.
There is no human suffering that Christ is not willing to make also as his own. And he does it because he loves us, he wants to save us, he wants to bring us back to him. Let’s remember that his love is first of all gratuitous. He loves us first before we can learn to love him in return.