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I’d like to share with you some thoughts about pain. Both physical and emotional pain have a certain volume. While our Lord doesn’t wish us to suffer needlessly, He does allow us to experience suffering in the spirit of carrying our crosses to follow Him in our earthly pilgrimage towards Eternal Life with Him in heaven!
We all have a natural aversion to pain, of course. But when you approach it from a Christian perspective of saving souls and atoning for sins, it can have great value. You might have seen in various doctors offices and such, those questionnaires where you are asked to rate your level of pain on a scale of one to ten (usually with faces from happy to completely miserable) as shown below!
Pain indeed has a “volume” as to how much of it any of us can bear at any given time. But the more you ask Jesus for His help and grace, the more He can help turn down the volume on your physical and emotional afflictions. What’s more, when you offer them up to our Lord on the cross in expiation for sins, they can be quite fruitful for salvation, for either yourself, or anyone else you might be praying for as well!
Here are some handy prayers that I find helpful in this regard:
The first one is this well-known prayer Our Lady taught the three Fatima visionaries, the children Lucia Dos Santos, and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, in 1917, to be said when offering up sufferings, sacrifices, or penances:
Oh my Jesus, I offer this for love of Thee, for the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The second one is easy to memorize, as the petitions are in alphabetical order (C, R, F, and S):
I offer you (whatever your concern or problem here)
For the conversion of sinners
For the forgiveness of sins
In reparation for sins and
For the salvation of souls. Amen.
God wishes us, as we read in the Baltimore Catechism, to love, honor and serve him in this life so that we may be happy with Him forever in the next. He wishes us to have an inner peace and confidence that He is looking out for us the more we seek to follow Him, allowing for sins that can be absolved in the Sacrament of Penance, otherwise known as Confession.
However, Our Lord makes it quite clear in the Gospels that we will have crosses to bear in this life (Matt 10:38). In fact, they can be seen in this regard as an important component of our being made worthy for heaven. While God loves us with a truly supernatural fervor, and He does not want to lose any of us, Eternal Life with HIm is not by any means guaranteed for us as a birthright.
This is not to say God is some kind of sadistic killjoy, that the Father took some sick pleasure in watching His Only Begotten Son suffer so strikingly in His Passion. As “True God from True God” Jesus Himself willingly took on that burden of being the ultimate sacrifice for Sinful Humanity as a whole.
Yet Christ’s sacrifice, meant to replace all those many Old Testament sacrifices of Bulls and Goats (Hebrews 10:1-4), did not take away our sinful proclivities. These have been present since Adam and Eve were exiled out of the Garden of Eden having lost the preternatural splendor they enjoyed with God before their act of willful disobedience in eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
However, when St. Paul said famously in his letter to the Colossians that ”Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church”, this was not meant to negate Christ’s Passion and death for our salvation by any means.
That was for humanity as a whole. It is still up to each of us following in Jesus’ footsteps to make restitution for our own sins, and hopefully those of others as well if we “offer up” unavoidable troubles, misfortunes as well as tragedies to Our Lord as He offered up His agonizing death at Calvary to His Heavenly Father.
As Catholic Answers put it succinctly: “Paul doesn’t mean that Christ’s death is insufficient for universal redemption. He is simply saying that his own incorporation into the mystical body of Christ (the Church) means that his sufferings can be helpful for other members of the body (the Colossian Christians to whom he is writing)....In the same way, suffering souls can similarly offer up their sufferings for the benefit of others.” Thus, the comforting aspect in all this is that you can offer your crosses for whomever you want, wherever they may be as well as for your own sins!
Thanks to our having Original Sin and having a strong inclination not to want to obey His commandments naturally, there has always indeed been pain all around us. It is especially present now when God is being mocked and ignored. Modernist clerics are trying to adapt His teachings to fit the misconceptions of our age.
And those who have little or no faith in God are raising all kinds of havoc and causing all kinds of mischief making themselves the center of their universe, which is all that matters to them.
In making themselves Gods rather than God’s (apostrophe “s”) they have foisted on the rest of society a make believe world of their own fancy and choosing, one where there are more genders than there are flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream, shoplifting is OK, and this country is just a racist exploitative mess whose constitution needs to be undermined, if not abrogated, in the march for a new Utopia, where no one will ever be triggered.
College students live in Wokeworld where any argument given that does not have the proper bias is to be stifled by any means necessary, including those harassing speakers not to their liking off campuses, and canceling people’s jobs if they stray from politically correct orthodoxy. This is a world where the State, not God, rules and we hear the shouts of those who cry out constantly, in one way or another, like the mob who condemned Jesus, “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15).
Along with all this, we see more and more families grappling with increasing inflation having to juggle between driving and putting food on the table in many instances. Crime is also spiraling out of control causing concern not just in our big cities but in rural areas as well. Many people are also dealing with numerous physical ailments brought on either because of or in spite of Covid and the shots that are lacking, to put it mildly, in both efficacy and safety.
And now there is added pressure put on some families to allow their young children to have risky “gender reassignment” surgery in response to so called transgender issues. All of this adds up to a lot of pain we’re all feeling to various degrees, either emotionally or physically or both!
Certainly all this and more adds to the weight of the crosses each of us are carrying daily. God allows us and indeed even requires us to carry our crosses with him as part of our earthly pilgrimage towards heaven. Nonetheless there are times when many of us feel overwhelmed by all this chaos and uncertainty around us in any case.
Yet Jesus said in the Gospels that “My yoke is easy and my burden light” (Matt 11:30) and chided the Scribes and Pharisees for putting impossible burdens on people (Matt 23:4). Is there a contradiction here? Not really. Think of your pains, whether physical or emotional or both as the crosses you carry in this life. You can always ask Our Lord to help you carry them so as to make them less heavy, less overwhelming if that’s the case, and more manageable.
Saint Alphonsus Liquori once wrote in this regard that “He who embraces the cross and bears it with patience lightens the weight of the cross. Indeed, the weight itself becomes a consolation; for God abounds with grace to all those who carry the cross with good will in order to please Him.” St. Anthony of Padua had a concise way to put this: “Follow after Christ and carry your cross for your salvation, as Christ carried His Cross for your salvation”
With physical pain, slight pains seem like no big deal. Those are easier to offer up to God. You can even feel like some righteous hero if it’s, say a level 2 or 3 out of 10! But this becomes harder when the pain level is such that it crowds out any other thoughts, perhaps an 8 or 9 out of 10, or even what feels like a 15 out of 10!
That kind of ache has a volume like that of a pneumatic drill pounding right next door! Or like the volume on some radio station turned up obnoxiously loud by neighbors when you’re trying to do work that requires intense concentration or to just go to sleep!
This is also true with emotional pain as well. Depending on the circumstances, you can brush off slights and situational rudeness from others. But in cases of a more egregious manner that might seem well nigh impossible. Whether or not the emotional trial is something ongoing, or stems from some past trauma you can’t put out of your mind. That too is a volume that may be too hard to ignore.
However, especially in such times, Jesus can help you “turn down” that noise and make it more manageable in any case! Christ stressed constantly in His earthly ministry the need in this regard for us not to bear grudges and to be able to forgive those who have hurt us, whether physically or emotionally!
Keeping with the idea of “no pain no gain” God will allow us to experience various kinds of misfortune so that we may become stronger spiritually, and grow in humility with His help.
Never lose sight, as difficult as this may be at times in this crazy world that, as St. Paul once wrote, "We also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." (Romans 5:3-4). Hope in what? That what is all around us isn’t all there is, not by any means, fortunately. There is an eternity of indescribable joy that God fervently wishes to share with us in heaven!
Don’t lose faith even when you fall that there is something wonderful beyond all imagination beyond your current sufferings and persevere in a state of grace as best you can. Let Jesus help make you better, not bitter. The best way for Him to turn down the volume of whatever pain you’re experiencing is for you to give it to Him for whatever intentions you wish. You can even give Him a blank check as I try to do saying in effect by “use this pain as you see fit".
Then at least you know your suffering can have great value for the salvation of souls, including your own! And finally, never be afraid to ask God in all humility to help you carry your crosses and to persevere in prayer!