A sermon preached by St Augustine on the feast day of St Laurence; He administered the sacred chalice of Christ's blood :
This reading is wonderful, in that it strongly reminds us of the solemn fact that to follow Christ is to travel the road of suffering, and there is no other path than that of the cross. This reading makes an allusion to St. Augustine’s essay which is the second reading in the Office of the Dead (Office of Readings); if you haven’t read it, do so! (I’m not aware of this reading being on the net, so if anyone knows where… pass it along, please?).
What is fundamental to this road of suffering, but is not touched on in the reading, is that there are two types of suffering, physical (that which affects the body) and moral (that which affects the soul). The physical side of suffering is pretty straight forward, but moral suffering is a little harder to get wrapped around. Moral suffering, seems intimately tied to “I don’t get my will” – it can be united with the suffering of Christ when our will is aligned with His Will, yet how many of us freely enter into suffering for our own will? Trouble is (and always has been) in understanding the Will of God, which is expressed as His “Signified Will” and His “Will of Good Pleasure.” His Signified Will is that which He has commanded explicitly and directly, and his “Will of Good Pleasure” is that which He has permitted. As nothing can occur which God does not will, all evil (that which is opposed to the signified Will of God) is permitted by His Will of good pleasure, even though it is not Willed directly.
All of this is in part the basis for the Catholic religious’ tradition of submission to authority which treats the commands of the one in authority as though they originated from the very lips of God Himself. I will set aside delegation of authority (Christ gave explicit authority to a church hierarchy, not the hierarchy of religious orders, which are constructs freely entered into), and while “all authority comes from God,” wielding His authority does not automatically translate to expressing His Signified Will. No, it would seem that one of the more sublime goals of the spiritual life is to so internalize the reality that God is in charge, and that all that He permits (which is everything that happens), fits to a piece for the greatest possible good for us and for our neighbor. This translates outside the reigious order to the world around us as well. So in answer to the exasperated question, “why does God permit all this suffering?” I have been known to say “It is all for you. When will you will turn to Him and stop opposing Him?” Why would I say such an odd thing? Because we may each of us consider that all the convulsion of this world has been permitted for nothing more than our salvation, as though each of us, was the only one to be saved. I believe that is why the greatest of the saints have looked upon the suffering of the world, and united their suffering with Christ in the one ocean of suffering which pierced our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, and hear Him say, “I did this for you, and you would not.” Let us deposit our tears here.
I will admit that my mind and heart and soul have a hard time getting wrapped around this and expressing it, so I heartily recommend you read the work of one far more eloquent than I, at The Holy Wounds Apostolate.
How to Make the Greatest Evil in Our Lives our Greatest Happiness
By Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, O.P.
May we learn the joy of suffering.
Hat tip to Anita.