Fr. Francis Scaria

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One day, a man had a lot of complaints presented to the Lord in prayer about his sufferings. In a moment of silence that followed he heard a whisper: “How can you be distributed unless you are broken?” His instant response to that was: “In that case, you may crush me”.

Sufferings in life are not accidents. They are God’s mysterious and powerful interventions. Sufferings are of various types. In the lowest level they are results of our own foolish acts. Once you pass that level all other stages of sufferings can be great mystical experiences. Some sufferings are due to accidents, some due to the circumstances of life like poverty, exploitation etc. Some are caused by others. Violence is one such suffering. Some are physical like sickness and pains. Some are mental – tensions, worries about food, clothing and shelter. We also go through spiritual agonies – pain experienced in the heart at the stubbornness of hardened sinners, at a world that is precipitating self-destruction and so on.

In 2 Cor 11:16-33 St. Paul lists his sufferings as proofs for being an authentic minister of Christ. He seems to say that endurance in times of suffering, is a requisite for being a disciple of Christ. In Act 14:23 in no unclear St. Paul says, “It is through many persecutions that we must enter the kingdom of God”. Paul considers sufferings as a means to enter the Kingdom of God. He uses the word ‘must’ to emphasise the place of sufferings in the life of Christians. Can a person be called a Christian if he / she does not carry the cross? A Christian is a Christ-bearer, but the Christ is on the cross. Hence Christian is a cross-bearer. Paul was, in fact, repeating the words of Jesus, “By your endurance you will gain your souls” (Lk 21:19). Jesus never failed to call a spade. He has no pretentions. He says, “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24).

The Cross is a ‘must’. While rekindling hope in the two disciples moving away from Jerusalem Jesus says, “was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into this glory? (Lk 24:26) In Mt 10:38 speaking about the cost of discipleship Jesus says, “whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me”.

Jesus is closest to us in our sufferings. The greatest of the saints had the privilege of bearing in their bodies the wounds of Christ with excruciating pain. St. Francis of Assisi, known as the Second Christ, was the first to be recognised as one who had an experience of the Stigmata. It was followed by over 400 persons in the Catholic Church including St. Padre Pio who have been reported to have received stigmata. It is also significant to note that over 350 of them are women. Is it not astonishing to read in Acts 5:41 that Paul and Silas left the Council, “they rejoiced that they were considered worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name”? How mature are we in our Christian Life?

MUSINGS : 1-25, 26-50, 51-75

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