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Suffering and happiness

English Spanish Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ Profile
We often read about how much suffering there is in the world. News abounds about war victims, murders, fatal accidents and every sort of calamity. No one can deny how much pain there is everywhere.

However, to that indisputable reality, a more comforting one must be added: Suffering does not necessarily exclude happiness.

How many mothers wear down their lives taking care of a child who is ill! A mother’s love sweetens the heartaches of renouncing to strolls and fun in order to take care of a terminally ill patient. Love holds the keys to happiness.

What we are able to grasp about natural love can be admired with greater splendor at the supernatural level.

Christians know – yes, they know, because faith is a profound knowledge, as it comes from divine wisdom – that the greatest good for humanity, human redemption, did not happen without the Savior’s crucifixion.

Since then, the crucified-risen One’s disciples experience joy by sharing in the Lord’s suffering.

When the first apostles were flogged and prohibited from spreading Christianity, they came away from the torture “rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the Name” (Acts 5:41). All the apostles, with the exception of St. John, suffered martyrdom. There were many martyrs during the first three centuries of the Christian era. They did not go to their torture crying or cursing, but singing hymns of praise. Masochism? No; the clarity of their faith and love overcame their powerful conservation instinct, and made them feel joyful when they crossed the threshold from death to eternal life.

Constantine’s peace in the year 313 closed the era of the first martyrs, and a new way of holiness and identifying with the suffering Jesus gained strength: Monastic life, at first eremitic or in solitude, later cenobitic or in community. It was perceived as a bloodless sacrifice, a crucifixion with the nails of poverty, chastity and obedience. To this day, that institution survives under the name of consecrated life, and it is a source of joy for thousands of Christians. Clergy of the Latin rite also bear with joy the cross of consecrated celibacy.

The Church has always called on her children to offer their crosses in union with Christ for the salvation of the world. Such exhortations crystallized into a spiritual movement called the Apostleship of Prayer. It began in France in 1844, and continues to this day. Its associates begin their day by offering their works. They present their activities and passivities (suffering) as a freewill sharing in Christ’s sacrifice which is perpetuated in the Eucharist. They also offer up their works for the intentions of the pope and the bishops. Such exercise of the common priesthood is a source of joy and comfort for many people suffering from illnesses, financial hardship, loss of loved ones and so many setbacks typical of “this valley of tears.”

Only the suffering that has no meaning brings unhappiness.

Fr. Eduardo Barrios, SJ
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