The Dignity Of Suffering And A Wish For Gratitude
A Reflection On Christ’s Crucifixion For The Holidays And A Call To Gratitude For The New Year
Suffering is part of life, and how you suffer is not unique. Suffering will not stop happening if we “pass the perfect policy” “educate the masses enough” or “have enough social policies” because suffering has happened and always will happen.
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And suffering, when focused on, can make people feel isolated. Often people can feel as though they are the only ones who are experiencing a certain situation, a certain tragedy, or a certain type of suffering.
Mathematically speaking, there are 8 BILLION people on planet Earth currently, not including those who have lived and since died. The odds that you, and only you are experiencing a unique issue is impossible.
These are truths that make people very uncomfortable. We like to think that all issues can be solved if we work hard enough at them. We also like to think of ourselves as unique, special individuals. And in a lot of ways we are unique, after all as a Catholic I believe we are all unique people created in God's image.
We are all human beings. And like most human beings, we have a lot of the same problems and experiences.
When I feel unhappy, I choose to pray the rosary, and in particular, the sorrowful mysteries, which focus on the circumstances shortly before and during the death of Jesus Christ. Whether or not you believe that Jesus is Lord, there are a lot of lessons hidden in the “sorrowful mysteries” of Jesus Christ, and the questions that arise from reflecting on them remind me of my own humanity.
The first sorrowful mystery was the agony in the garden. Jesus saw all the bad things that were about to happen, and although he didn’t want it to happen, his prayers were “your will not mine be done.” Have you ever realized that something bad was about to happen, and have been powerless to stop it? Have you ever laid out the best plans and then, when they fell apart, became angry and sorrowful?
The second sorrowful mystery was the Scourging at the Pillar. He was whipped. Those who whipped him were said to be filled with the very hate of Hell, in reaction to his purity. Have you ever been falsely blamed for things that weren’t your fault and punished for them? Have you ever been falsely accused?
The third sorrowful mystery was the crown of thorns, which was shoved on his head to mock him, and kneeled in front of him, and spat on him calling him “King of the Jews”. Have you ever been mocked for being different, or having different ideas, only to be vindicated later? Have you ever had people not believe in you?
The fourth sorrowful mystery was the cross that Jesus carried up the hill, as a crowd of people yelled to crucify him. There were no friendly faces in the crowd, only those who were gleeful to see his demise. Have you ever been abandoned in your greatest hour of need by your friends?
The fifth sorrowful mystery was Christ's crucifixion. He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He prayed for his enemies who put them there, even as he hung, dying, painfully, he remembered others. He remembered to pray for others. When you are suffering, do you think of others, or do you only think of yourself?
The sorrowful mysteries reveal not just the death of Christ, but the inhumanity of our fellow man. They reveal not just the humility of a man dying, but the ugliness inside of human beings' hearts, and that even 2,000 years ago, the sins of mankind have never changed.
From the betrayal by Judas, the abandonment of his friends, and the persecution of false crimes, these are things that happen and continue to happen every day. People didn’t understand Jesus, they didn’t understand that he was here to save them, and so they persecuted what they didn’t understand, just like they do today.
And yet, despite the pain that he suffered, the dignity of his suffering was not lost on mankind. The fact that he suffered, for us, is something we do every day.
We go without food so our children may eat. We go without sleep so a newborn baby can be nourished. We work hard and buy our family presents despite never giving ourselves the same amount. We struggle and fight against cancer and other diseases because, even though we might want to give up, we know that our families will miss us, and one more Christmas with them will make them happy.
But just as important as it is to remember our family's struggles, it is also important to remember the struggles of others.
While you complain about a job you may hate, remember those who have no job. While you complain about a medical bill, remember others’ medical bills. While you complain about your marriage, remember others' marriages. When you complain you have no money for presents, remember those who don’t have a home.
And remember all the things you have to be grateful for today and the suffering it took you to get here, to this moment in time. Reflect on the things you have to be grateful for, and I assure you the things you are suffering with will appear just a tiny bit smaller.
This holiday season, I wish you to remember the dignity of your suffering and that you have gratitude in your heart, for all the things that have happened to you that make you who you are today and I invite you to join me in my New Years Resolution: To write down one thing you're grateful for each day.
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