I had a bout with a 72-hour virus this week that, while hardly life threatening, still caused me much discomfort. Lying in bed, miserable and achy, lead me to start thinking about redemptive suffering. Now I know that being knocked down by a virus is not equal to say, suffering a stroke or battling cancer, but still it was an opportunity to offer my discomfort and my aches and pains as a prayer to God.
Our faith tells us that when we “offer up” our pains and sufferings, no matter how small or insignificant, they can become a prayer of petition, an acknowledgement of Jesus’s suffering for us, and a token of thanksgiving for all that God has given us.
It makes us active participants in redemption.
Pope – now Saint — John Paul II, writing in his 1984 papal letter Salvifici Doloris, reminded us that “Christ raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his sufferings, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ”
St. Paul, in his letter to the Colossians, wrote that “I rejoice in what was suffered for you … for the sake of His (Jesus’s) body, which is the Church." (Colossians 1:24)
When we put our pain in the context of redemptive suffering, it gives meaning to what we endure. I remember years ago a priest once telling me, “it must be hell for an atheist to suffer.” The point he was making was that our discomfort and pain is multiplied and increased if we do not have a context, a reason, a meaning to what it is we are enduring.
In my case, I offered the inconvenience and discomfort of being sick as a prayer to God for a friend of mine who is awaiting a kidney transplant. I asked God to please apply whatever good I am obtaining by obediently suffering and apply it to the prayers of my ailing friend.
Throughout the Bible, healing was a major part of Christ’s ministry. Jesus cured a paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8); the servant of a Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13); Peter’s mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-5 and Mark 1:29-31); a man born blind (John 9:1-39); and 10 people with leprosy (Luke 17:11-19).
I know God heals, and I pray He will help my friend get a new kidney. It gives me a sense of serenity to think that my minor suffering could help bring about the comfort and healing of someone who really needs it.