Without love, deeds, even the most brilliant, count as nothing. — Saint Thérèse of Lisieux

 

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Redemptive Suffering

“For what glory is it, if committing sin, and being buffeted for it, you endure? But if doing well you suffer patiently; this is thankworthy before God. For unto this are you called; because Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps”   – 1 Peter 2:20-21

Crucifixion

The Crucifixion by Rossetti

 Holy Week is upon us and we turn our thoughts to the suffering that Christ endured for us – to save us from sin and eternal damnation. Thoughts of the terrible price he paid for our sin. During the Lenten season we also partake in redemptive suffering. Through fasting, prayer and almsgiving we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection. We traditionally give something up for Lent. We also fast and abstain. Through these sufferings, we unite ourselves in a small way to the suffering that Christ bore for us. As we celebrate Christ rising from the dead on Easter Sunday, we rejoice for the risen Lord and have a great Easter dinner, and typically get back to life as normal for the most part.

Our practice of and participation in redemptive suffering need not end with Easter dinner. Redemptive suffering is such an incredible tool, opening the door to many graces from God. In much of the world, Catholics still practice abstinence on Fridays throughout the year – although in the U.S., we are not bound to this observation, many still practice it. Abstinence is a form of redemptive suffering. What other forms of redemptive suffering are there?

The most common forms of corporal mortification are fasting and abstinence. Many Catholics around the world still practice regular fasting throughout the year as a part of thier spiritual cultivation. Some examples of more serious forms are self-flagellation (practiced by Pope John Paul II among others), wearing a barbed chain or rope around one’s thigh, or putting a pebble in your shoe. It can also be much simpler, such as volunteering to do someone else’s chore for them or even enduring provocation or insults with a humble smile. St. Therese of Liseux used to carry a string of beads around with her, moving a bead for each small sacrifice or good deed throughout the day.

Mortification, although a scary word that conjures scenes from a Dan Brown novel, has been practiced throughout the ages as a way to unite ourselves with Christ’s suffering, to purify ourselves and to ask for God’s grace for the remission of punishment due for our sin or to help those in desparate need of help due to hunger, persecution, addiction, etc. We can also offer up our suffering for the faithful departed, to help ease and expedite the purification of purgatory. In much the same way a strenuous workout may strain your muscles and tire you out while leaving you with a feeling of accomplishment or fulfillment, redemptive suffering helps us to strengthen our spirit through physical sacrifices or deprivations. It can also further our intentions in union with prayer.

The practical application isn’t that difficult really. Take fasting as an example. As you are reading or listening to the radio during what would normally be your lunch hour, and you feel that rumble in your stomach, take a moment to reflect on the suffering that Christ endured for us. Say a simple prayer, “Father, I offer up this suffering in reparation for the sinful life I have lived”, or “Father, I offer up my fasting for those who do not have enough to eat”.  Whenever that thought hits you through the day – ‘man I could go for a juicy steak right now’, say your small prayer for the intention you have in mind.

With remptive suffering, the opportunities are many and varied – don’t miss out on them. Happy Easter.

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