Posted by: Thomas Richard | December 1, 2011

Suffering with Patience, in Innocence

So much suffering has come upon so many around us. There is one effective, efficacious truth that we can cling to – it speaks to us from the Cross – it is the saving love of God. Jesus showed us this love in His patient suffering on our behalf on the Cross – and in doing so, He also showed us the path to holiness: Take up your own cross, and follow.

I am copying below a portion of a Retreat presentation on this theme that was delivered by the holy priest, Fr. John Hardon, S.J. The italics were added by me for emphasis. The presentation can be read in its entirety HERE.

… But that is not the lesson of the patience of God in the person of Christ. The lesson that Christ’s patience teaches us is that someone must suffer, and there is such a thing as someone else suffering for the sins I have committed, and I suffering for the sins that others have committed against a just God. What Christ’s patient suffering teaches us is there is a mysterious solidarity among the members of the human family, which is why God became Man: to join the human family, so that the sin of one member of the human family can obtain from God the mercy the sinner needs by the suffering of another member of the human family.

Christ’s patience teaches us that by our patience, not by our pain, not even by our suffering, but by our patience we become more and more like Jesus Christ who, having joy set before him, chose the Cross. I just wish I had preached and taught this way twenty-five years ago. I didn’t realize, I’m sure I don’t fully realize it yet; but no words can describe what faith tells us: the value of patient suffering out of love for God is the most precious treasure that man can possess in this world. Oh, the blindness of the human heart! With the short few moments, which we happen to call years, spent in this life, we fail to realize the priceless value of patient suffering in union with Jesus Christ.

….

We are not to be surprised that suffering is part of our faithful following of Christ. Don’t be surprised; that’s the way it is.

There is a necessary relation between sin and pain. Sin, we believe, is an offense against the will of God. Our created will says no to the will of God, that’s sin. Pain is the experience of something against our will. There are two wills involved, the will of God and the will of man. Whatever is against the will of God is sin; whatever is against the will of man is pain.

God sent pain into the world in order to expiate the evil of sin. In other words, had there been no sin there would have been no pain. But now, in God’s mysterious providence, he enables us to suffer in order that sin might be expiated.

Everyone suffers, but not everyone suffers willingly. To suffer willingly is always to expiate the evil of sin. Let me repeat. To suffer willingly is always to expiate the evil of sin, either my own sins or the sins of others. And we don’t have to read the Washington Post or the Chicago Tribune or the New York Times to know there are mountains, Himalayas of sin.

My Jesuit confrere, St. Francis Xavier, exhausted himself for ten years in India. There were one hundred thousand known baptisms that he personally performed. He kept writing back to Europe, pleading with the easygoing, well-fed, well-groomed European gentry. “How can you be lolling in ease and not doing all you can to keep souls from going to hell?”

All the patience we are talking about in this meditation, the willing endurance of pain, has a purpose. What’s the purpose? To prevent souls from going to hell. That’s why, faith tells us, God became Man.

The more holy a person is, and therefore the less sins that individual, man or woman, has to expiate, sins which they have themselves committed, the more innocent the sufferer, the more sinless the one who endures pain, the more pleasing that suffering is to God, and the more expiatory in the salvation of souls. Because, you see, it was the innocent Lamb of God, the all-holy Son of God who became man and who suffered. Needless to say there were no sins of his own that he had to expiate. What are we being told? To become as holy as we can, so that when we experience suffering, and patiently endure pain, our sufferings, like that of Christ’s, will be sublimely effective in the eyes of God.


Responses

  1. Dear Thomas,

    Thank you so very much for posting these beautiful and needed words of the late Father John Hardon, SJ. I read recently that his cause for canonization may soon be presented to Rome. The words you have posted certainly help us understand why Fr. Hardon’s life is being studied.

    What insights he presents to us who are all called, in different ways, to face suffering in our lives! May we learn, by God’s Grace, as he and all the holy ones before us have learned, to follow Christ and to unite our sufferings with His. What a glorious dignity God has given us that we may enter into His Holiness!

    May we begin this Advent learning Christ more deeply. May our lives shine with God’s Light like the Star of Bethlehem leading others to Christ. Let us remember the words of Fr. Hardon:

    “To become as holy as we can, so that when we experience suffering, and patiently endure pain, our sufferings, like that of Christ’s, will be sublimely effective in the eyes of God.”

  2. Dear Dr. Richard,

    “What Christ’s patient suffering teaches us is there is a mysterious solidarity among the members of the human family, which is why God became Man: to join the human family, so that the sin of one member of the human family can obtain from God the mercy the sinner needs by the suffering of another member of the human family.”

    Thank you for the reminder. You may probably have noted in some of my posts in the CCF, reference to a neurological disease that I have been coping with for 45 years. Many patients have been robbed (including yours truly) of the ability to provide for their families, a lost of many friends because it’s so poorly understood. Even though the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation is trying to educate the public and medical people about this disease, there still exist a lot of apathy and more work needs to be done educationally. I am very grateful to the hard working staff of the DMRF, they convinced the Department of Veteran in the U.S.A to do research for us. The Parkinson Foundation was doing some research for but their own patients was a priority.

    I was attempting this morning to encourage a young lady by email who seems to be at the end of her wits; she finds the constant muscle contractions exhausting and consequently she is deeply depressed.

    Thank you for posting this article on your blog. Even though I do suffer because of this disease, the thought of offering this through Mary to Jesus for the salvation of souls, keeps me from being depressed.

    In Christ,

    Gene

    • Let me thank you especially for this post, Gene, which confirms by your personal testimony the beauty of the truth of this “mysterious solidarity among the members of the human family,” as Fr. Hardon wrote it. From your own long-suffering, made valuable in Christ, comes a desire to comfort this other person. How mysterious and beautiful are His ways.

      Thank you.

    • Dear Gene,

      I want to add my thanks to Thomas’ reply. The true “value” of suffering is in our loving union with Christ, and as Thomas has already pointed out, how beautiful it is when we are enabled by Him to share this Grace with others. I hope you will continue to encourage the young lady who is suffering.

      Also, the intention to do all “through Mary” is an added grace, I believe, for which I too am grateful. Whether or not we are aware of it, all grace flows through Mary from Christ. That is the teaching of the Church. In an article on “St. Maximillian Kolbe, Apostle of Mary” Father Hardon wrote:

      “…our life of grace depends on the nearness of grace we have to the Immaculate Mother of God. It is an article of faith that everyone receives sufficient grace to reach heaven. But the degree of grace that any person receives — always from Christ but through Mary– depends on the degree of grace which that person, at the time when grace is needed , is near to, like to, assimilated to the Mother of Jesus. The more Marian we are, the more assurance we have of obtaining grace from Mary’s Son through His Mother…”

      I hope you were able to share your love and devotion to Mary, with this young lady also.

  3. Prayer for the Beatification and Canonization of
    Father John Anthony Hardon of the Society of Jesus
    Almighty God, You gave Your servant, Father John Anthony Hardon of the Society of Jesus, the grace of consecration as a religious dedicated to the apostolate and the grace of consecration as an ordained priest, after the Heart of Your Divine Son, our Good Shepherd.

    Through Father Hardon, You provided for your Flock an extraordinary teacher of the faith.

    You entrusted Father Hardon into the loving care of the Blessed Virgin Mary whose counsel, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:5) he faithfully followed and whose intercession he unceasingly invoked.

    If it be Your holy will, please grant the request I now make, calling upon the help of Father Hardon, so that his heroic sanctity may be recognized in the whole Church.

    I ask this through Your Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who with You and the Holy Spirit, is one God forever and ever.

    Amen.

    ——————————————————————————–

    A prayer card may be requested from:

    The Father John A. Hardon S.J., Archive and Guild
    Phone: 314-373-8260 Email: contact@hardonsj.org


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