My Dear Parishioners,
Among all of our readings today, our Gospel seems to
dominate; so much so, that we could fail to notice or pay
attention to the words of our first reading from the prophet Isaiah. In many ways, this short passage, taken from the Song of the
Suffering Servant sets the scene for the second reading and the Gospel. Taken together, all of our Scripture passages point to one common question: Does suffering have meaning?
Surrounded by the impact of suffering, we often seek to try to explain it or at least understand it, even when no such
explanation is possible. As people of faith, suffering seems to go against our most basic image of a loving and caring God, and we find ourselves wondering: How could a loving God let this happen? Throughout history, humanity has struggled with this question and has come up with a variety of answers, some of which are helpful, others that are not.
As people of faith in the Roman Catholic tradition, we oftentimes seek meaning through the lens of Sacred Scripture. Listen again to the words of Isaiah-The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity, and in the words of the Letter to the Hebrews-(Christ) has been tested in every way, let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and to find grace for timely help. At first glance we might not find much solace here, but then when we look through the eyes of the suffering of Jesus, we see that these words do not seek to explain suffering but to help us realize that even in moments of pain and suffering good can emerge. The Suffering Servant does not suffer in vain but will justify many. Justification here has more than its legal sense of being acquitted and being restored to right relationship with God. Because of this justification, we can now confidently approach the very throne of God.
This theme of finding value in suffering can also be found in our gospel passage. The disciples are basking in the privilege and status of being chosen followers of Jesus, and so they seek the ultimate glory of special seats in the Kingdom. What they are surprised to hear is that leadership and authority are not about glory or special status but service and self-giving. Here, in a radical way, Jesus reverses the worldwide view of power. Here suffering and service, symbolized in the cup of suffering, become the hallmark of Christian discipleship.
So, if leadership and discipleship are given new meanings, is it too much to ask if suffering also has another meaning in the context of our relationship with Christ? Yes, it remains a reality in our lives and no matter how innocent or blameless we may feel, it is an unwelcome visitor at all times. But in Christ we can begin to use it for a greater purpose, to learn from it and to join our sufferings with his for the justification of others. No moment of human suffering goes unnoticed by God. Indeed, that we suffer speaks of our human condition; how we suffer speaks of our faith in Christ. What gives us hope is that in Christ’s sufferings, he triumphed over sin and death in the Resurrection. Our hope is that we, too, will one day share in that victory with him in heaven.
God Bless, Msgr. Maresca