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Friday, April 19, 2019

Good Friday - Suffering in union with Christ

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Source: Is it Possible to Live this Way? An Unusual Approach to Christian Existence (Volume 3: Charity) by Luigi Guissani

1.  Why is life difficult?  Why are we saddened?  Why do we suffer in this life?  The Bible offers many different approaches to this fundamental human question.  The book of Job says it is a mystery that only God knows, and one day may reveal to us in eternity.  Ecclesiastes states that God has placed the timeless into our hearts, and this can cause that suffering. "So that man may never delude himself into thinking what he has can be enough for him." The longing is a "holy longing," a "holy ache."  This is the "I thirst" we hear from Jesus' lips today: man's ache for God meeting God's ache for humanity.
2. What is sacrifice?
Because of sin, which chooses oneself over and against another, our world is a fallen mess.  We see the horror of it in Our Lord's Passion, and we get it displayed before us in television, movies, and almost anything else.  Because of our fallen world,  to stand with the truth and go against the pleasant lies that disguise our selfishness will always mean sacrifice.  To do something in a true, loyal, sincere, and just way: this is sacrifice.  Sacrifice is required to tear yourself away from falsehood and break free from the landslide of lies.  And so any true relationship, if it is to be free from the lies of hidden selfishness, requires sacrifice.  You cannot live with and for another without sacrifice, for indeed any thought, word, or deed that is not "for myself" is sacrifice.  And the fullest, deepest form of sacrifice is found in precisely that relationship for another.  The greatest sacrifice recognizes a relationship and stands in the truth of that relationship despite the tidal wave of falsehood that attacks it.
3. God's response to suffering.
In the ultimate answer for why we suffer, God gives us not only a word, but a Word become flesh.  He gives us a story and a life.  God is love.  Love is the ultimate, complete, living "for another."  So when God comes into our fallen world out of His infinite love for us, He must reveal Himself in sacrifice.  When he stands up for the truth of His relationship with us, it means resisting the mob of a world torn apart by the selfishness of living "for oneself."  And when our fallen humanity and God's love for us collide, we witness the great devastation of sacrificial love, of "love to the end" in the Lord's passion.  And now in Jesus' love to the end, we can see beyond suffering to resurrection.
4.  So back to why do we suffer?
We suffer because we live, we truly live.  To truly live means to live as we were designed, to live in the fullest sense, which for us means to love.  We suffer because we love in a fallen world that resists the holy ache within us.  We suffer because suffering is a condition for life - because the more one suffers and is capable of suffering, the fuller one's life is.  We know through the best example that we never think about enough: Jesus suffered more than anyone because He loved infinitely, and thus He lived, and lives, in the infinite fullness that is heaven.  This is why we choose to stand in the truth: we desire to live a full life both now and in eternity.
5.  And so we embrace the cross today.  We venerate it.  We genuflect to it this one day each year.  For it is here that we see the fullness of our mystery revealed to us.  Here we find the answer to the questions of why we suffer, what sacrifice brings, and how to truly live.  "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit."  May the seed of Christ's sacrifice spur us on to find true life in our lives of self-giving love for others.

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