“The Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves?
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Suffering is a great mystery. Sometimes it makes God feel farther away, while other times feels like God could be no closer. In some cases, suffering appears to be the result of sin—whether mine or another’s—and in many cases, it seems inexplicable if not unjust.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus does not tell us to look for meaning in suffering. He does not promise that everything happens for a reason or suggest that suffering is a test of our faithfulness. He does tell us that if we want to follow him, we must be willing to struggle. That does not mean that we seek out opportunities to endure pain, but it does mean that my relationship with God is worth the struggle it sometimes brings.
Jesus tells us that he suffers, too; he shows God’s solidarity with the entirety of the human condition. When I suffer, I am not alone.
Compassion means “to suffer with.” If I experience suffering, how can I feel compassion for myself and open myself to God’s compassion for me? If I am free from suffering, how can I bring compassion to those I love as well as those who are hard for me to love?
God of compassion, be with me this day. Help me become more attentive and responsive to the tenderness of your love, present even when I am struggling. In this Lenten season, make me an instrument of your tenderness in the world.
—Dr. Marcus Mescher
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