Love and Suffering – Fr Japhet Mashal
In today’s gospel, Christ is asking us to keep His word. If we heed to His words, we will leave the church better people. Last Sunday, Christ said, ‘love one another as I have loved you’. If you love Christ you will keep this commandment, which is to love one another as Christ has loved us. We are told God is love and an expression of His love is contained in John 3:16 where it is written that He so loved the world that He sent His own begotten son.
But there is a problem we are having. We want to love but do not want to suffer. Christ says no greater love than for a man to lay down his life for his friends. In Hebrews 5:8, it is written, ‘Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered’. Christ learned to love through suffering. People go for love but no one wants to suffer. Suffering is a part of love. This is contained in Luke 9:23, ‘Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me’.
Christ’s love comes with suffering. Christ loves us because He suffered. Christ suffered for us all thereby leaving an example that we should follow. In the marriage course, one is also taught how to prepare to suffer in marriage. There can be various forms of suffering such as giving birth to a child with a disability or even a spouse becoming disabled. We need to prepare ourselves for suffering even in the midst of the prosperity preachers.
The prosperity gospel can trigger suicide because when the prophecy does not come to pass and the person is suffering, as a fleeing mechanism, the person may decide to commit suicide. But Christ says you cannot love without suffering. Until we learn to love one another, our society will remain this way. Suffering does not lead to depression. Even priests get depressed. In 1kings 19 1-8, we read that Elijah was depressed. Saints too were depressed such as St Ignatius of Loyola, St Theresa of the little flower, among others. You cannot pray when you are depressed and so we need one another. Christ loved us even when we never deserved it, while we were sinners.
We could be suffering from stress, grief, academic pressure, disabled children, etc. We need to have a human touch and pray for ourselves. Christ says peace I give you my peace I leave you. In order to have peace, you need to love. In the Gloria, we say Glory to God in the highest and peace to men of goodwill. We are meant to be people of goodwill. We are meant to love.
As we struggle in our Christian life, we pray that God should give us the grace to love as Christ loved us. And may God visit those that are depressed and grant them comfort through Christ our Lord. Amen.