Friday, May 27, 2016

Sharing the Sufferings of Christ

Caravaggio's Crucifixion of St Peter
First Pope walked the talk.

I was struck by today's first reading from the First Letter of Peter. The first Pope takes for granted (and expects his readers to, as well) that Christian life involves an intimate sharing in the sufferings of Christ--as well as the confidence that this is the prelude to sharing in his glory. Passages from other parts of the New Testament kept popping into my head:
  • "Did not the Christ have to suffer and so enter into his glory?" the Risen One asks the disciples on the Emmaus Road (Lk 24).
  • "In my flesh I fill up what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the Church" (Col 1:24).
  • "For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow" (2 Cor 1:5).
  • "I want to know [Christ] and the power of his resurrection and [the] sharing of his sufferings by being conformed to his death" (Phil 3:10).
  • "Son though he was, he learned obedience through suffering, and when perfected became the source of eternal salvation for all who believe in him" (Heb. 5:8).
I could go on, but you get the idea. The triad suffering–Christ–glory is practically a three-word summary of the Christian message, and therefore of the Christian life. And today Peter looks at us and asks, "Did you really think it was something else?"

It's a fitting enough message for a Friday, a day when the Church invites us to "fill up in our own flesh what is lacking" –whatever it is that Jesus offers as our own, irreplaceable participation in his passion: intimate communion with Jesus, even in our most intimate sufferings.

I'm currently typing up some of the particularly salient points from Pope John Paul's pre-papacy sermons "Sign of Contradiction" (the Lenten retreat meditations he offered at the Vatican in 1976). It's an amazing work; in many ways, key themes from his Theology are the Body can be found here (just as they can be found in his much earlier "Love and Responsibility"). Anyway, here is a Friday thought from St John Paul, very much in line with Peter's from today's first reading at Mass:

Scourged, mocked with a crown of thorns, he carried to Mount Calvary together with the weight of his cross the truth of human suffering, humiliation, scorn, torture, agony, death.…. On the day of his death Jesus entered into the fullest and deepest communion and solidarity with the entire human family, and especially with all those who throughout history have been the victims of injustice, cruelty and scornful abuse.
What is your prayer for this Friday afternoon?

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