Ordinary 29th Sunday
Ordinary 29th Sunday
Is. 53: 10-11 Heb. 4: 14-16 Mk. 10: 35-45
Properly approached, suffering can open up unlimited reservoir of blessings.
Suffering: God’s Will?
Quite often we hear people telling the sick or suffering, “It is God’s will that you suffer. Kindly learn to accept it.” The problem with the statement of this sort is that it goes against our basic assertion that God is love. If God is love, and if that love is an unconditional one, then God will never wish anyone to suffer, since love is always interested in the welfare of the other, not in the suffering of the others. When we love someone, the first and foremost thing that we wish is that that person remains happy and healthy. Can God be an exception to it? Moreover God is not a sadist – one who derives pleasure in the sadness of others. However, the first reading says, “it was the will of the LORD to crush him with pain.” How to understand this statement?
Even though we read that it was God’s will to crush his servant with pain, the first reading goes one step ahead and says, “Out of his anguish he shall see light; he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge. The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous.” It indicates that God’s will is not so much that His servant suffers, but rather through his suffering, he should bring forth prosperity and betterment to himself and to others. So, that a person suffers cannot be God’s will. Rather what a person achieves or brings out of his life by going through a process of suffering is precisely God’s will. To put it more precisely, that a person grows into one’s fullness of life through the instrumentality of suffering is God’s will.
In the gospel, we see Jesus inviting his disciple to a life of suffering and service. He asked James and John, “Are you able to drink the cup that I drink?” He further instructed them, “whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.” Such a life of altruism and service is not easy. It is very painful and demands a great self-denial (in fact ‘ego-denial). It is through such a process of suffering and pain, one can find one’s fullness of life and brings out the best. The words of the author of the book of Hebrews, “He was made perfect through suffering” (2: 10) precisely point to it.
Suffering: Blessing in Disguise
In other words, suffering, when properly approached, can be a source of blessing. It is a blessing in disguise. The problem with many of us is that we want God’s blessing in the way we want – in the form of material comfort, economic prosperity etc..
A story is said about a poor, illiterate woman who had only one son. She tried her best to give him a fair education, even at the cost of depriving her own needs. The son became well qualified and got a lucrative job in America. Even though her son earned a lot, she continued to live the same old poor condition. Once a family friend happened to meet this poor woman and enquired whether her son was not sending any money. She lamented, “Ah! he writes letters regularly and sends a few pictures, but does not send any money.” Since this person wanted to know what these pictures were, he asked for them and to his surprise, all of them were American dollar notes, worth lakhs of rupees.” She had everything to live her life comfortably, yet because of her unawareness she lived in utter poverty.
This poor woman symbolizes each one of us who expect God’s blessing in the way we like. When it comes in a different form, it is very unfortunate that we don’t recognize it. This unawareness of disguised blessings of God makes us live in utter material, emotional and spiritual poverty.
A few examples of disguised blessings:
a). Suffering: When we suffer, we begin to think loudly. Our mental faculty gets sharpened and the level of maturity goes up.
b). Hardships: When we go through hardships, we work hard to come out of it. It strengthens our will power.
c). Negative Feedback/Evaluation: This helps us to critically look at our own actions and become aware of those areas in which we need to improve. If negative feedback is not there, we would suffer from laxity and lethargy. It is said about a very famous painter, who was well appreciated for his painting in a town. After a few days, he decided to quit the town. This was the reason he said, “Here in this town, people appreciate and praise me so much. I am afraid that this will make me rest on my laurels which in turn may make me lethargic. Now I would like to move to a place where I would be criticized, found fault with, which will challenge me and help me to bring out the best.”
d). Our own weaknesses: They point out the areas in which we need to focus and work on. If areas of growth are not known to us, how can we grow?
The second reading goes one step further and informs us that, during the moments of suffering, we are not left alone. We have got a High Priest, who himself went through a process of suffering, and He assists us in this process.