Pain, whether it is physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, is something that comes into each and every one of our lives. Most of us try to minimize the pain in our lives, to avoid pain, get rid of pain, or lessen pain. Usually, this is very appropriate, and is perfectly understandable. But our Christian faith teaches us that pain and suffering are necessarily part of everyone’s life, and that pain is also useful at times. We learn of one way that suffering benefits us in our readings today.

In our second reading for this weekend, which is from the First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, St. Paul addresses the suffering that he is going through and witnesses to us about how we should deal with our own suffering.

Paul writes, “Brothers and sisters, now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh, I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His body, which is the Church.” At first glance it seems absurd to rejoice in our suffering, but Paul seems to know something that we may not. Paul recognizes that our suffering can be beneficial, not just to us, but to others as well. 

Christians are not masochists. We do not go looking for suffering. We don’t have to. More than enough suffering will find us. We do try to not create unnecessary suffering in our lives and in the lives of others, by making wise and cautious decisions. And if it is legitimate to do so, we do try to ease that suffering in our lives, and if possible, get rid of that suffering. But what of suffering we cannot legitimately avoid? St. Paul shows us how to bear that suffering by giving it meaning and purpose.

Paul accepts his suffering and offers it to God as a prayer. Prayer of this kind seems to have great power, because we are offering our suffering in union with the suffering of Christ. Jesus has shown us the value of suffering in His own life. We are saved by His Passion and Death on the Cross. The suffering of Christ has redemptive value. Because we are the Body of Christ, then our suffering, in union with His, has great value as well.

When we are facing suffering that cannot be legitimately avoided or gotten rid of, take some time to unite those sufferings with those of our Lord, offer them up for someone or some situation that you want God to bless, and rejoice that you have the opportunity to share with Jesus in bringing healing into this world.
–Fr. Mike Comer