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Mar 15, 2017

Suffering and the Mass: The Great Exchange

Jeff Cavins

Pope St. John Paul II said, “Down through the centuries and generations it has been seen that in suffering there is concealed a particular power that draws a person interiorly close to Christ, a special grace” (Salvifici Doloris, 26).

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How many times have you heard someone say, “The Mass is boring,” or “What does the Mass have to do with my situation in life?” How many of us have grown up not understanding that in the Mass we have the divine drama of sacrificial love presented to us with the invitation to participate in the ultimate act of love (Tweet this).

The most ironic thing about many people’s experience during Mass is that they have brought their problems, their suffering, and their preoccupations to the very place where their suffering can find true meaning. It comes as no surprise to me that we oftentimes review our life’s difficulties in our mind, completely missing the very drama that changes the question mark in our heart to an exclamation mark. Like the dehydrated man circling a drinking fountain contemplating how thirsty he is, so are many Catholics today circling the Mass with thoughts of their own predicament.

Transformative Suffering

I want to focus on one aspect of the Liturgy: the aspect of suffering. Christ’s suffering can transform our lives in the Mass; where God has come to earth, suffered, died and now asks us to follow in his footsteps. At the end of every Mass, we ought to leave with the attitude that I’m not only going to join myself to him in his sacrifice, but I’m going to live that sacrifice when I exit the door and go to my home, my work, my neighbors. In short, I’m going to become like Jesus in every area of my life.

Often our lives are spent trying to avoid suffering. We don’t like to suffer. Most of us have unanswered questions about suffering. We especially wonder how God, if he loves us, could allow us to suffer. This question of suffering is so prevalent it would seem that the gospel message would provide obvious answers. Throughout salvation history we see that the ways of God are often not the ways of man. Embedded in the dark confines of an oyster, we find, to our surprise, shining pearls.

Perhaps the circumstances to which you find yourself appear to be dark and hopeless. You are not alone. Not only have others been where you are, but more importantly Jesus has been where you are.

This blog post is the first installment in the Suffering & Mass series, which was originally a chapter in Scripture and the Mystery of the Mass published by Emmaus Road Publishing. It is republished on The Great Adventure Blog with permission from Emmaus Road Publishing.


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  • Thank you, Jeff…I am Eucharistic Minister at our local hospital…And I got asked that very question: Why is there still suffering and violence going on in the world, if Jesus died and rose for us? I sent up a quick SOS to the Holy Spirit; and my answer was: Jesus did suffer, die, and rose for us. But God has a different plan in mind. His love for us is so great that He allows us to be a part of that Redemptive Salvation Story, if we choose to be. I know it is a simple response, but it was just what spoke to her heart. This is a question that is on the hearts and minds of many people.

    • Beverly, Thankyou for saying “Yes” to bringing Jesus to the ill.
      Your response to the perplexing question that anyone with a heartbeat cries out to have answered, was the truth.
      What was their reaction ?

      Partaking in God’s Redemptive Salvation Story is not something that comes intuitively . Most Catholics likely may have heard the words “ offer it up” when in pain, but have little knowledge of the spiritual “flow chart” of how it is suppose to work. You cannot understand all mystery , but alittle basics help give one help to carry on praying.
      Which is why I am on this site.

      People ask how God can allow a 3 year old have bone cancer ? That is their dismissal of any loving God.
      My response: Okay. Have it your way. There is no God. The child still had cancer. Why? Is it fair? Kind ? Many secular people practically worship nature.
      Nature is indifferent and unloving. We use science (as the Church virtually entirely accepts) to ease the pain of existence, etc.
      As a Catholic Christian we learn that the effects of Original Sin explain the non paradisal world we live with death, sickness , disaster . Also the Free Will and fallen nature of humans to sin against one another— a great source of suffering. Finally we have satan and his fallen angels which explains spiritual warfare bringing further cause of suffering.

      God creator of all and any good, sends his Son to satisfy the Justice required in a heavenly system of pure truth which we are inescapably part takers in. This urge among humans may explain our intuitive need to sacrifice to the gods over many cultures.

      To make short:
      Jesus sacrifices himself to bring us back from effects of Original sins sickness and death
      by submitting himself to existential suffering by simply becoming human( God to Human, wow). and all the pains of living because he loves us.
      Secondly Jesus suffers the pain of others sins against him (eg. vengeful leaders, romans, haters, weak sinful humans)
      Thirdly, pain of satans attacks from others.
      Jesus voluntarily chooses to allow himself to be Sacrificed by being captured, convicted, tortured and executed. Giving up his spirit via death willfully as part of His plan of LOVE FOR EACH OF US. Satan could not kill Jesus without Jesus’ consent.

      He resurrected showing absolute victory over Effects of Original Sin and Satan. Glorious Victory resurrecting with an UNKILLABLE BODY !!! (even spell check rejects the word unkillable)

      Now, our part:
      By the sent ADVOCATE , the Holy Spirit And Jesus’
      Commission of the Church or THE MYSTICAL BODY OF CHRIST— His Body!!

      We are to follow voluntarily of our free will, to share in his Suffering , death and resurrection.
      Why ?
      Because we come to know in our sinful attempts to live our lives that we are failing on so many levels . Especially true as we learn about our spiritual side— our soul’s consequence of unrepented habitual sin.

      Through becoming a member of the Mystical Body of Christ we can share our lives with Jesus.

      When we suffer pain:
      Existential (LIVING) pain of existing tainted by the effects of Original Sin .

      SACRIFICIAL PAIN we voluntarily experience because of the sacrifices we make to LOVE God , self, neighbor and enemy, as Jesus did and asks us to do here and now.

      PERSECUTIONAL PAIN that we experience from telling the TRUTH ABOUT GOD/Jesus and for justice. As Jesus also did/does.

      All this loving sacrifice and pain is ongoing of Jesus because of his Redeeming Existence, and sacrifice is eternal: claiming past , present and future till the end of time.

      AT MASS THIS ACT IS RENEWED EVERYTIME !!!!

      AND IF WE BRING OUR LIVES’ SACRIFICIAL OFFEERINGS TO THE ALTAR SPIRITUALLY AND EVEN PHYSICALLY VIA DONATIONS,
      We ARE WITH CHRIST ON THE CROSS (as members of the Mystical Body of Christ) everytime.

      All the angels and Saints and Us are UNIFIED IN LOVE OF OUR ETERNAL FATHER CREATOR AND LOVING INVITER TO PARADISAL HEAVEN.

      Now EVERY PAIN WE HAVE IN OUR EXISTENCE IN THE SERVICE OF LOVE CAN Be OFFEREd UP “IN UNION THROUGH HIM, WITH HIM AND IN Him” .

      It’s not wasted . It’s pain used for a purpose made holy because it is combined with Jesus act on the cross. We are
      All priests in this. Which is why we should be in a
      Pure— not sinful — state as we take Jesus into body’s receiving Communion!! (Humbling gift of Confession)

      That is why Mass is surrounded by angels and we are so pleasing to God as we bring our gifts to the altar .
      Mother Mary soul wish is lead us to her son so we can spend eternity input fullest goodness in Union with the Father in heaven.

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