Gospel Reflection for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Why Suffer? (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)

Many years ago, a former parishioner approached me for spiritual consultation. She was an active servant of the parish community. She just could not understand what she was going through in her life. She shared that she had led a wayward life for many years, almost drowned by the many pleasures of the world. After joining a Life in the Spirit Seminar (LSS) sponsored by a Charismatic Community in the parish, she saw the light and decided to leave her sinful ways to follow a devout life for God. She went back to Church and even joined a couple of mandated organizations. She just wondered why, amidst her involvement in the Church and service to God, she was experiencing more trials and tribulations. She was in a lot of financial worries. She was having problems with her husband and children. She asked me: “Father, they say that when you are close to the Lord, you experience more blessings. I turned away from my worldly lifestyle. Now, I go to mass everyday, pray more and serve the parish. Why is it that I am suffering more?” I told her: “Who is the Lord you follow and are close to?” She replied, “Jesus Christ.” I pointed to the big icon of Christ crucified at the Church altar and remarked: “Look at the crucified Lord you follow and serve. The closer you are to Him, the more you identify yourself with Him and live the life He lived. Be prepared to suffer more.”

Jesus said: “Anyone who does not take his cross and follow in my footsteps is not worthy of me. Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:38-39) Many people find it hard to accept the path of suffering. There is always a tendency to evade or even escape suffering. We find meaning in our suffering only with our faith in Jesus Christ Who suffered for us. When we contemplate deeply the Paschal Mystery of our Lord, we discover that it is worth carrying and bearing our crosses. We might even feel that the heavy burden becomes light because Jesus carries and bears the cross for us. I hope this story enlightens us.

Indira the Pagan approached Guru Makir and said, “Show me a god to adore and a religion to believe in.” Guru Makir brought Indira inside the Temple of the Gods where all the gods were enshrined. The Guru led the way and they stopped in front of an idol. “This is the god Bagdha,” Makir presented the idol. “This god promises to end the sufferings of men.” Indira shook his head and asked Makir to lead him to another god. When they found another, Guru Makir spoke before the idol, “This is the goddess Jopah. She teaches men the ways to escape suffering.”

The Pagan shook his head and asked Makir to introduce him to another god. Finally, they stopped in front of a life-size crucifix. Indira looked upon the cross with utmost curiosity. “Who is this God who allowed himself to be crucified?” Indira asked. “Jesus Christ, the God of the Christians.” At this, Indira the Pagan looked quietly at the cross with compassion. He was enlightened and he implored Makir to tell him how to become a Christian. “You confuse me, Indira,” Guru Makir said. “The two other gods promise to end suffering and Jesus Christ obviously does not. Why did you choose the God of the Christians?” Indira the Pagan answered Guru Makir, “A god who promises to end suffering is a foolish god. Suffering cannot be eliminated from earth. The promise of no suffering is an illusion. A god who teaches how to escape suffering will make cowards out of men. Escape from suffering is an impossibility. The moment you escape from one, you shall find sufferings ten times more. “However, the God of the Christians, who himself suffered, will make men understand suffering and therefore bear it. Once the mystery of suffering is understood, then, even in this world, joy will abound and peace will reign.” “You have spoken the truth,” Guru Makir replied. “Let us go. I wish to be a Christian, too.” (Andrew Maria, MMHC, Parcels of Truth: An Anthology of Anecdotes, pp. 1-2, 1992)

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