In the Letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul deals still more fully with the theme of this "birth of power in weakness", this spiritual tempering of man in the midst of trials and tribulations, which is the particular vocation of those who share in Christ's sufferings. "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us"(Romans 5:3-5). Suffering as it were contains a special call to the virtue which man must exercise on his own part. And this is the virtue of perseverance in bearing whatever disturbs and causes harm. In doing this, the individual unleashes hope, which maintains in him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, that it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity linked to awareness of the meaning of life. And indeed this meaning makes itself known together with the working of God's love, which is the supreme gift of the Holy Spirit. The more he shares in this love, man rediscovers himself more and more fully in suffering: he rediscovers the "soul" which he thought he had "lost" because of suffering.
Pope John Paul II The Christian Meaning of Human Suffering#23
Greetings to all! It is amazing how the Spirit that unites us all flows similar themes through all of us at the same time. Pope John Paul II has always been a hero of mine. He was our Holy Father for the majority of my life and his passion for the gospel and his ability to make tangible what is so often mysterious in the world was always amazing. His writings have always inspired me and still do. The above quote was sent to as part of a mass email that Fr. Stan Fortuna sent out in the past few days. As I read it I felt as though the words were jumping off the screen and into my heart and I felt compelled to share them with you and what I felt like God was telling me through some of them.
My interpretation of this quote is that life and suffering is a two step process, seems simple enough right?? Step one is admitting that it is bigger than we are, this is where admitting our weakness comes into play. We must admit that we cannot do this on our own in order to receive help, right? If we cannot admit that we are in need of assistance than we simply try to “solve” it ourselves or as I mentioned in the previous blog, “self-medicate.”
Step two is the turn and this is where Pope John Paul says, “man must exercise on his own part.” God is great and huge and ruler of the universe, but He is NOT pushy. He respects our free will and desires for US to turn to Him. He will ever so slightly give us a nudge, a sign, a word in order to say, “Hey I am here, let me help you,” but he waits for us to turn to Him and invite Him in to our life and the situations that we find ourselves in. I think a lot of us see “Holy” people and their life looks perfectly put together. They are in Church all the time, the pray a lot, they have a great marriage, great kids, great lives and we say to ourselves I could never be like that. If that is what God is looking for, then I am not it! Am I right? Just look at the Gospel reading for today, it comes from Matthew 11: 28-30, Jesus said: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” Did Jesus say, “Come to me all who are perfect and I will give you rest. Come to me all you have your lives in perfect order and I will give you rest. NO, He said COME TO ME ALL YOU WHO LABOR AND ARE BURDENED, and I will give you rest. He says, “Take my yoke upon you” He is not talk about an egg yolk. A yoke is the harness that they put around ox as they plow the field so they can guide them. He is saying to each one of us, LET ME GUIDE YOU! He is saying to us if you just let me guide you, I will give you rest, in the midst of your suffering.
The individuals who choose to take the yoke of the world off of their shoulders which by the way is driving them into the ground out of exhaustion and put on Christ’s yoke he will “unleash hope” into our hearts. As this hope is unleashed we will realize that this suffering will not get the best of us and I think Pope John Paul says it beautifully when he says that when this hope is unleashed it, “maintains in him the conviction that suffering will not get the better of him, that it will not deprive him of his dignity as a human being, a dignity linked to awareness of the meaning of life.” Whatever situation we find ourselves, no matter how painful it may be we will still realize that it WILL NOT get the best of us because of the grace of God.
As we follow the gentle guidance of Christ through these storms in our live we will find meaning and purpose, but most important we will find ourselves. The true self that has been covered for so long by the masks of perfection that we have placed on ourselves so we can “fit in.” Christ was not afraid of the outcasts, in fact that is who He spent most of His time with. He hung out with tax collectors, prostitutes, cripples, leapers because they were the ones WHO KNEW they were weak. They knew they were in need of assistance and there was no hiding it. May we too, not be afraid to admit our weakness and turn to our loving God, our Church, and our brothers and sisters in Christ so that we might all experience a “birth of power in weakness.” We love you all and ask that you continue to pray for us! Much Love, The Cantrells
P.S. We have had an overwhelming response in requests for Cate’s prayer cards and we are getting them out to you all. If you have not requested one and would like one please send me your mailing information to firstname.lastname@example.org we still have some and will be having more printed.