JESUS SAID TO HIS DISCIPLES:
“The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed and on the third day be raised.”
Then he said to all, “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself?”
LUKE 9: 22-25
BLESSED ELIZABETH OF THE TRINITY
At the age of twenty Blessed Elizabeth wrote:
“My God, in union with Jesus crucified, I offer myself as a victim. I desire the cross as my strength and support, and wish to live with it, that it may be my treasure since Jesus chose it for my sake. . . . My Savior, I desire to return Thee love for love, blood for blood. Thou didst die for me, therefore I will daily endure fresh sufferings for Thee; every day shall bring me some fresh martyrdom because of my deep love for Thee.”
The Praise of Glory, 47
Blessed Elizabeth’s passion for suffering was for her a fitting expression of her love. It reflected the attitude toward suffering common to her times. Trials were seen as an opportunity to expiate one’s sins and those of the world, but above all as an opportunity to grow in love. Trials were also considered a proof of God’s love. They were sent to special persons so God could reward them afterwards. Jesus was seen as the great example. By embracing the cross, He reconciled the world to His Father. In a less medically advanced era suffering was a fate to be endured. Elizabeth’s desire for suffering was not motivated by hidden masochism but rather was animated by love, along the desire to overcome egoism through self-sacrificing love.
Out of love, Jesus surrendered to the condition of our human, finite fragility and to the disorder of sin that eventually led to His suffering and death on a cross. God’s love for humankind, for each one of us, is at the heart of this mystery of our redemption. Pray for the grace that when the sufferings of life come your way that you may see them as windows of opportunity to mature in love and compassion for others in their sufferings and come to a deeper appreciation of Christ’s love and care for you.
As you reflect on the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel in the light of Blessed Elizabeth’s ardent desire to suffer with Jesus, ask myself: What is my attitude toward the sufferings each day inevitable brings? Does even the slightest pain plunge me into feelings of self-pity as I reach for a bottle of pain relievers? Does preoccupation with myself in my difficult moments leave me uncaring and indifferent toward the needs of others?
Jesus, in spite of recoiling in the face of suffering and inevitable death, impelled by the force of love, you said in prayer, “Not my will but Thine be done.” When life’s sufferings overwhelm me help me to find peace in uniting myself with You. Give me the courage to take up the cross in the many forms it comes to me and to those I love. I hold before you the world’s sufferings: physical pain, difficulty in relationships and between nations, struggles in family life, economic loss, world hunger, separation from loved ones through war, and the any other forms of human pain. United with you may your love draw me, with all who suffer, into quiet mindfulness of Your abiding presence, the source of strength and inner peace. In your name I pray. Amen.