Jesus was (and still is) astonishing. In fact, we see that in today’s Gospel reading from Mark 1. “The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.” Do you still have a sense of astonishment about Jesus? I hope so, and I hope it grows greater every day.
Our first reading today is from the Letter to the Hebrews. This book is filled with so much Christology. Today we get a fascinating glimpse into one of the reasons why the Son of God had to suffer and die. “For it was fitting that he, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the leader of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Jesus was “made perfect” through His suffering. But wait…as the Son of God, wasn’t Jesus already “perfect?” The Greek word used means “to complete” or “to perfect.” Through His suffering, Jesus showed complete and perfect obedience to the Father. The same obedience we are called to perfect.
This can really help us answer the old question about the meaning, the purpose of suffering. It is our nature to avoid suffering at all costs. Suffering = bad. Comfort = good. Until we realize that suffering does, indeed, have a purpose. The purpose of our suffering is the same purpose as the suffering of Christ. It is to perfect us. To learn obedience. To rely more fully and completely on God, and to trust in his plan. When we come to this realization, we can accept and embrace our suffering, knowing that it is leading us to perfection. And, as an added bonus, our suffering can be used for the sanctification of others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1521) says that suffering “becomes a participation in the saving work of Jesus.” As Catholics, we call that redemptive suffering.
Father, may our suffering bring us to greater obedience and perfection, as it did for your Son. We offer you our suffering for the benefit of others. Amen.
My new book, A Minute in the Church: Life in Christ has a chapter on Redemptive Suffering. The release date is Wednesday, January 18, 2017.