Do Christians have to suffer?

Today’s readings are focused on how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering servant:

The Lord GOD opened my ear; I did not refuse, did not turn away. I gave my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who tore out my beard; My face I did not hide from insults and spitting. The Lord GOD is my help, therefore I am not disgraced; Therefore I have set my face like flint, knowing that I shall not be put to shame. — Isaiah 5:7

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days. — Mark 8:31

But, did Jesus really have to suffer in order to save us?

Do we, Catholics and Christians, really have to suffer in order to be saved?

The answer to both questions is no.

First, Jesus did not have to suffer in order to save us.

God’s mercy is unfathomable. Our human minds can never comprehend the depths of His love and His mercy for us. That is why even for those who have committed capital sins, there is still hope for salvation because of the Father’s mercy.

Salvation comes from God alone. — Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraph 169

What this means is that Jesus could have lived while still saving us from our sins.

Yet, Jesus embraced suffering in order for the Jews during His time to understand the Law and the prophets.

He embraced suffering in order to show us a way to live: completely obedient, faithful, and trusting in the Father even in the face of death.

He embraced suffering in order for us to encourage us in our own sufferings and to give us hope.

He embraced suffering in order to show us how much God loves us, by being the Paschal Lamb Himself.

He embraced suffering in order to give us a model to follow: someone who is willing to lay down his life for others, regardless of whether they follow him or persecute him.

The sufferings of Jesus had a purpose. He did not suffer just for suffering’s sake.

For us Christians or Catholics, we also do not have to suffer in order to be saved.

But, when we suffer because of striving to live righteously, of striving to live the Gospel, we suffer with a purpose.

When we suffer to bring Jesus and to be Jesus to others, we suffer with a purpose.

When we suffer to bring encouragement and hope to others, especially through our own sufferings, then we suffer with a purpose.

When we suffer to participate in the sufferings of Jesus, we suffer with a purpose.

When we suffer for the sake of others, of the Church, then we suffer with a purpose.

When we suffer with a purpose, we have to endure it. More importantly, we have to enjoin it with the sufferings of Christ. Then, our sufferings also become redemptive.

But, when we are suffering just for suffering’s sake, then we have to stop embracing it. We have to move forward and stop hurting ourselves. The Father loves us so much to allow suffering just for suffering’s sake.

Are you suffering? What’s the purpose behind your suffering?

P.S. There are also sufferings, the reasons for which are hard to understand. There are sufferings which seem to have no purpose — like an accident or an illness. For these kinds of sufferings, we can only trust that God allowed them for a reason, for a purpose. We can only enjoin our sufferings with the suffering of Christ and His Church. Then, our sufferings become purposeful and redemptive.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church. — Colossians 1:24

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One Bread, One Body

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because the loaf of bread is one, we, though many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf. — 1 Corinthians 10:16-17

When we share a meal, we do not only share food. We also share our time, our stories, and our whole selves with the people we are eating with.

That is the beauty of the Mass and the Eucharist.

During the Mass, we are reminded of how Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples. He also shares His time, His stories and teachings, and even His whole self, including body and blood, with us.

Through the Mass and the Eucharist, we participate and are united in the body and blood of Christ.

At the same time, at the Mass, we also share the meal, the Passover Lamb, Jesus, with our brothers and sisters.

At the Mass, we also share our time, our stories, our attention, our lives, and ourselves with others.

Sometimes, that’s what we’re missing at the Mass — sharing ourselves and our lives with others.

One day, I wish we do not just attend the Mass and receive Jesus through the Eucharist. I wish we also become one and truly share ourselves with our brothers and sisters at church.

P.S. This is also why wherever we are in the world, we, Catholics, have the same readings, the same rituals, the same traditions. We all participate in one meal with God who is not bound by space or time. When we participate in the Mass and receive the Eucharist, we share ourselves and our lives with our brothers and sisters, all around the world, past, present, and future.

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A cure for complaining

Whenever we look at the cross, let us remember what God has done for us.

The people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!” — Numbers 21:5

When we complain, we forget about the blessings we have already received. We forget what God has done for us in the past.

We forget how He helped us through a difficult situation, helped us pass our board exams, provided for us in times of need, healed us or our loved ones from illnesses.

We forget how fortunate we are to eat three meals a day when people in some parts of the world don’t even get to eat a single meal a day.

Sometimes, when we complain, we are even like the Israelites who grumbled about the very blessing that they received, the manna from heaven, and called it wretched. When difficulties in our jobs, careers, and marriages that we prayed for arise, we complain to God about them.

The story of the Israelites continued with God sending seraph serpents among the people:

So the LORD sent among the people seraph serpents, which bite the people so that many of the Israelites died.

Then the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned in complaining against the LORD and you. Pray to the LORD to take the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses: Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and everyone who has been bitten will look at it and recover.

Accordingly Moses made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever the serpent bit someone, the person looked at the bronze serpent and recovered. — Numbers 21:6-9

By looking at the bronze serpent, the Israelites were healed from their affliction. At the same time, they were healed from their ungratefulness and complaining.

The bronze serpent was a prefiguration of Jesus on the Cross.

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. — John 3:14-15

By looking at Jesus on the cross, we remember what He has done for us. We remember how He found us worthy of His own life and died for our sins. We remember how the Father sent His only Son to save us (which, as a father, myself, is a really painful thought).

How can we complain when Jesus suffered and died so that we can live?

Whenever we look at the cross, let us remember what God has done for us.

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Small acts

An excerpt from today’s first reading:

Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough? Clear out the old yeast, so that you may become a fresh batch of dough, inasmuch as you are unleavened. For our Paschal Lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the feast, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. — 1 Corinthians 5:6-8

A little malice, a little act of selfishness or self-gratification, a few moments of losing self-control can derail us from our walk to holiness.

We do not stray from the path to righteousness or become completely numb or indifferent to sin or lose our conscience through one significant act. It happens one seemingly insignificant act after another.

But, one little holy thought, one little act of kindness or selfless sacrifice, one moment of self-control can start getting us back on the right track.

Our walk to holiness does not only take one giant step. It also takes a series of small steps.

“A little yeast leavens all the dough.”

It works either way. It is up to us what kind of small acts we will choose to do... starting today, this very moment.

Be deliberate.


P.S. This is also true for our dreams, our careers, our businesses, and whatever we are doing... or chasing.

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God is close to the brokenhearted

He is close to the desperate, to the poor, to the sick, the ailing, to the depressed, to the persecuted, to the exiled, to the weak.

Because when our riches and possessions have failed us, when our health and strength have failed us, when our friends and families have failed us, only God remains. He is faithful.

This is what St. James tells us in today’s Epistle:

Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Did not God choose those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom that he promised to those who love him? — James 2:5

That is why when Jesus came, He gave sight to the blind, He made the deaf hear and the mute speak, and He healed those were ailing.

Most of all, He gave hope to those who were desperate, forgiveness to the sinners, and love for the brokenhearted.

He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak. — Mark 7:37

Are you brokenhearted? Are you ailing? Are you on the verge of giving up?

God is close to you. He hears your cry. He is love and hope and peace and comfort.

Put your trust in Him.

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, saves those whose spirit is crushed. — Psalm 34:19

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