Summary: As the farmer must suffer to attain the joy of harvest, so we must embrace our crosses in life to attain the joy of union with the Father.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Word and Suffering

I always encourage my students to plant gardens. The reasons are many, but one of the biggest is that one cannot understand Scripture without knowing something about agriculture. It’s only been in the past couple of hundred years that Catholics have been for the most part caught up in an industrial and post-industrial existence. Most of our kids believe that food is somehow manufactured in the back room of the local HEB. They don’t, therefore, relate very well to God’s gift of rain making the land grow rich with crops, and thus don’t get the metaphor for the Word of God enriching the earth and making it yield a rich crop of the faith-filled Church.

Farmers and ranchers suffer to bring in the food. Most of the time, post-industrial life is organized around eliminating pain and suffering. We have food processors instead of hand-graters, self-cleaning ovens, and we haven’t cranked an auto engine in three generations. But St. John of the Cross was right: "it is quite impossible to reach the thicket of the riches and wisdom of God except by first entering the thicket of much suffering, in such a way that the soul finds there its consolation and desire. The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross. "

If our prayer, the prayer of Jesus, is to have an effect, we must realize that for the Father’s kingdom to come, we have to sweat and occasionally be beaten up. If His will is to be done, we have to sacrifice our own comfort and convenience. This Eucharist, this daily Bread, was won by the suffering of His Son, and maintained by the blood of martyrs. I think of the brave English and Irish Catholics who gave their lives rather than give up the Mass. It takes pain to forgive our enemies, to pass up temptations. I shrink from the crosses I face every day; they are not fun. But, as St. Paul taught, there is true joy, true goodness and truth and beauty, behind the face of suffering. To embrace that destiny, we must embrace the cross daily.

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