As I read through today’s readings in preparation for this post, one phrase hit me like a ton of bricks.
Redemptive suffering. It’s a phrase you’ve probably heard before but maybe didn’t really know much about. Maybe you know the concept but don’t really understand it.
Redemptive suffering, what even is that?
Right from the beginning of the first reading, St. Paul is talking about suffering, afflictions, labors, and struggles and rejoicing in them.
We all experience ups and downs, high points and low points, periods of consolation, and periods of desolation. That’s normal human life. But do we enjoy suffering? Not particularly. In fact, one that enjoys suffering might be labeled sadistic.
(St. Paul wasn’t sadistic, by the way.)
We usually think of suffering in terms of darkness, of sin and of evil. Illness, divorce, addiction, and unemployment, among others, come to mind as modern-day sufferings. Where is the light? Where is the joy in that?
That’s where the idea of redemptive suffering comes in. When we find ourselves in the midst of suffering, whatever it may be, we can unite our suffering to that of Christ’s on the cross.
Crucifixion was the worst death sentence one could receive. Most criminals who were crucified weren’t even nailed to the cross like Christ was. Jesus’ crucifixion was the ultimate suffering for Him who knew no sin. Yet he bore our afflictions and iniquities upon Himself for our sake.
The Passion, Death, and Resurrection redeemed humanity, reconciled sons and daughters to their Heavenly Father, but that salvation is ongoing due to the Spirit’s ongoing transformation in our lives. Redemptive suffering, uniting our suffering to Christ’s on the cross, is a way of participating in the work of salvation.
How can we do that? Start with a simple prayer from the heart, directed to the crucified Christ. The Holy Spirit will prompt you with the right words for your particular suffering.
Need something a little easier than that? Maybe start by offering up your suffering for someone in the world who is suffering more than you, or make it even more personal by intentionally praying for someone in your family or a friend who is suffering.
Redemptive suffering can do something beautiful in your life if you allow the Lord to work through it and through you. Take heart, brothers and sisters.
Erin is a Cleveland native and graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Following graduation, she began volunteering in youth ministry at her home parish of Holy Family Church. Her first “big girl” job was in collegiate sports information where, after a busy two years in the profession on top of serving the youth, she took a leap of faith and followed the Lord’s call to full-time youth ministry at St. Peter Church. She still hopes to use her communication arts degree as a freelance writer and statistician, though. You can catch her on the Clarence & Peter Podcast on YouTube as well as follow her on Twitter @erinmadden2016.