One day, on a hill called Calvary, God sent his Son, ordained from the very beginning, to die from a cruel execution. The Romans could not have conceived a more vicious manner to kill those, who in their judgement, deserved a public spectacle to reduce anarchistic activity.
What was expected of the Messiah didn’t sit well with the Jews when they encountered Jesus and his theme of “forgive your enemies and pray for those who harm you.” Their vision was a mighty warrior riding on a great Stallion, sword in hand and leading God’s people to victory over their rivals. A savior; yes. But a warring leader who would establish a kingdom to live in freedom from tyrannical captors.
Jesus was born in a stable, among the poorest of people; shepherds in the fields with only his Mother and Joseph standing watch. The presentation in the Temple finds Simeon proclaiming to Mary “Now Master, you may let your servant go in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you prepared in sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel.” to Mary he goes on saying, “Behold this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (the beginning of suffering) and you yourself a sword will pierce so the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (a sign of suffering for Mary as well).
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Lk. 4: 18 - 19, 21). When the people heard this and what followed, they were filled with fury. (Lk. 4: 28). A second sign of suffering.
“He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, one of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.” (from the 4th suffering song Is. 53: 3). A prediction of the continued suffering Jesus would encounter during his passion).
Do we look to follow a savior who would stand boldly with sword or javelin in hand, waiting to cut down his enemy and be able to proclaim “do me wrong and I will cut you down like a wild animal.”
Or are we ready to accept the fact that suffering is the only way to the cross? My wife just went through two surgeries within 8 weeks of each other. She asked this very question; will God use my suffering and pain for healing? Yes, God does accept or use suffering for healing. God does not cause the pain, or loss of someone or something close to us. But, be sure He is closest to us in our time of need. With Jesus on the cross His Father was as close to him as any one could be. The fulfillment of extreme suffering was the uppermost thought of His Father, given for our souls by the eradication of Sin.
We were never promised a life without troubles, disappointments, pain, and yes suffering in this life. St. Bernadette was promised peace in the future in heaven, but not in this life. So it is with each of us. I can not explain the theology of suffering, only to say that we should accept it as best that we are able with the Grace of God.
Ralph B. Hathaway, October 2019