Category Archives: suffering

Fickle Sunday

Holy Week begins with “Hosannas” on Sunday and ends with “Crucify Hims” on Friday.

What fickleness!  What fecklessness!

We are all like this when it comes to following Jesus.  We try to avoid sin, ask forgiveness when we do sin, and accept grace.  However, we vacillate between wanting Him and rejecting Him.  We can’t make up our minds whether we hold Him in regard or if we are going to sin regardless of the consequences to our relationship to Him and the state of our immortal souls.

Then, there’s the whole focus on the Cross this week.  We hate to be reminded that Jesus tells us that we must pick up our cross and follow Him.  Jesus didn’t just pick up His cross though.  He embraced it.  He kissed it.

And what do we do when God sends us a little bit of suffering.  ( I truly believe that there is no comparison with our sufferings and the brutality of being crucified; not even mentioning the cruelty of the scourging and crowning with thorns.)  We whine and ask Him to take our suffering away as quickly as possible.   Holy Week should remind us that we all are going to have our crosses to bear.  How do we accept them?  Do we embrace our suffering with all the love for Christ that we can because we know that Easter Sunday always follows Good Friday?

I leave you with a wonderful quote from the Cure de Ars, St. John Vianney.  I plan on using this all week long to remind me of what the the Christian life is really all about.

“There is no doubt about it: a person who loves pleasure, who seeks comfort, who flies from anything that might spell suffering, who is over-anxious, who complains, who blames, and who becomes impatient at the least little thing which does not go his way–a person like that is a Christian only in name; he is only a dishonour to his religion, for Jesus Christ has said so: Anyone who wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross every day of his life, and follow me.” ~St. John Vianney

 

 

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Desolation

During any reading of the Passion, there are two things that touch my heart.  Yesterday, was no different.

First, I always cringe when we are “the Crowd” and I have to read the part that says “Crucify Him.”  Second, I am always struck by the utter desolation that is in the cry of Jesus.  “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”

About the first:  my sins crucified my Lord.  And that is part of the reason that I cringe.  I might not have been there, on the scene, but I was there.  When His arms were stretched out, He saw me and He saw every sin I would ever commit.  Yes, He died for me. Personally.

About the second:  Life is a spiritual roller coaster.  We are either in a period of Consolation or in a period of Desolation or somewhere in between at any given point of our lives.  The periods of Consolation are awesome and a time of great spiritual joy.  The periods of Desolation are dry and sterile.  Sometimes when I am there, I don’t think I will ever experience great spiritual joy again.  Then I remember Jesus on the Cross.  “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?”  And, that gives me strength to begin the ascent again, up the hill of the roller coaster, to a period of Consolation.

I am going to be making my weekend Ignatius Retreat: Consoling the Heart of Jesus beginning on Thursday evening.  & I will not be back on here again until Easter Monday.

I hope this Holy Week is a time of great consolation to you.  That’s my plan for me.

 

 

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Answers From My Heart

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Let’s Talk About It

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  What does this text say about God’s knowledge of you?

God must know me pretty well.  I always feel that even during my “Job” or “Jeremiah” moments that He has His arms wrapped around me and that as long as I cling to Him, things will be all right.  He knows my strengths and weaknesses way beyond my resume and I have come through some things that looking back seemed insurmountable challenges.  Now, I just KNOW that there is nothing that Jesus has not given me the strength to overcome–no trial or temptation is too big.

James describes sin as having a sort of gestation and maturation period.  He writes, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”  everybody has “nursed” sin at some point in their lives.  How do we cut off that process of gestation, birth and maturity for sin in our lives?

The easy answer to this is to avoid the occasions of sin whatever they are.  Focus on the positive aspects of being a Catholic–the Mass, the Eucharist and especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Keeps the venial from becoming the mortal.

James tell us if we lack wisdom, “ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.”  What resources has God freely handed us by which we can gain wisdom?  How might we make those resources a part of our lives?  What obstacles stand in the way of gaining that wisdom?  How might they be overcome?

(See the last answer.)  Also, He has given us His Word to read and study to get to know Him.  Time is one of my biggest obstacles.  Someone asked a question last week on FB.  Do we spend more time on the computer than with God?  If we do then our priorities are really messed up.  That is one of the reasons I have been trying to limit my social media time to an hour each day. 

James tells us, “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”  However, our lives are in continual states of change.  How do we take the “heavenly perspective” and see our constantly changing lives through the eyes of Him Who does not change?

It seems that my perspective has become more “heavenly” the older that I have gotten.  I judge everything now by will it get me to heaven or not.  This can drive some people crazy; especially those in my life who do not have the same outlook.  This question, though, can make decisions very easy to make.

When Israel conquered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, Canaanites still remained in the land.  God said in Judges 2: 21-23 that He did not drive out all the Canaanites but left some in the land that He might test Israel, whether they would walk in the ways of the Lord.  With this in mind, and in light of your current trials, what might God be trying to do in your life in terms of walking in His ways?

I think I am tested a lot because of my Catholicism.  I work with all Protestants and find myself (not defending) but explaining things to people in a way that I hope will be “salt and light” to them.  Also, many of my children have fallen away from the Church that they were baptized in and while some of them continue to go to a church, it is not the same.  This and my granddaughter wanting to get involved with occult practices like crystal reading are my two main trials right now.  I am trying to live an authentic Catholic life as an example; however it is hard to do that when they live so far away from us.   I’m not sure what God is trying to do in my life over this; but I’m determined to walk in His ways to holiness.

So, now, what about you?  Do you have any comments?  I’d love to hear from you.

St. James

St. James

Next Time:  James–Study Two

@HomeWork:  During our study of James 1: 1-8 what did you learn that you have to “sweep” out of your life” (Spring Cleaning)  What do you think you should add? (New Additions)

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Let’s Talk About James 1: 1-8 & other stuff

Today I am going to put out a few questions based upon what we have been studying so far in the hope that you will consider them.  I would love it if you would write some comments about some of the questions.  I will answer one or two on Friday and then we will be ready to start Study 2 (James 1: 19-27) on Monday.  Notice that we are not studying these verses in the order written.

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Let’s Talk About It

1 Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful and He will not let you be twmpted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”  What does this text say about God’s knowledge of you?

James describes sin as having a sort of gestation and maturation period.  He writes, “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.  Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”  everybody has “nursed” sin at some point in their lives.  How do we cut off that process of gestation, birth and maturity for sin in our lives?

James tell us if we lack wisdom, “ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.”  What resources has God freely handed us by which we can gain wisdom?  How might we make those resources a part of our lives?  What obstacles stand in the way of gaining that wisdom?  How might they be overcome?

James tells us, “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom thee is no variation or shadow due to change.”  However, our lives are in continual states of change.  How do we take the “heavenly perspective” and see our constantly changing lives through the eyes of Him Who does not change?

When Israel conquered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, Canaanites still remained in the land.  God said in Judges 2: 21-23 that He did not drive out all the Canaanites but left some in the land that He might test Israel, whether they would walk in the ways of the Lord.  With this in mind, and in light of your current trials, what might God be trying to do in your life in terms of walking in His ways?

St. James

St. James

Next Time:  Spring Cleaning and New Additions.

@HomeWork:  Please try to answer at least one of the questions for yourself.  & share if you are so moved!

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Failing to “Count It All Joy”

On Wednesday of last week, we faced a “trial” in our house and I failed St. James miserably.  When we were gone from the house for an hour, the tank on the toilet overflowed and we came home to two inches of water on the bathroom floor that had also seeped under the door of our bedroom soaking about a 7 square foot area of our wall to wall carpeting.  We had to rent a wet-vac and an industrial fan to clean and dry up the mess.

I couldn’t bring myself to “count it all joy.”  In fact, I’m sure that some choice words left my mouth. (Pardon my French, as my daughter would say.)  And, even while I was posting Points to Ponder, I didn’t see the irony of my feelings of upset and disgust and what I was writing.  When I went to work the next day, my friends told me that studying the Epistle of James was a surefire way to bring “trial and temptation” into my life.  Sort of like, asking God for patience and He sends opportunities to practice it.  Well, I failed the first test; but now I’m on the lookout as we continue.  Have any of you any similar stories in the past week or two to share?

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

Rome to Home

“The Gospel of suffering is being written unceasingly, and it speaks unceasingly with the words of this strange paradox:  the springs of divine power gust forth precisely in the midst of human weakness.  Those who share in the suffering of Christ preserve in their own sufferings a very special particle of the infinite treasure of the world’s Redemption, and can share this treasure with others.  ” (Salvifici doloris, 27). Pope John Paul II

Catechism Connection

CCC 2846-2849  “And Lead Us Not Into Temptation”  The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death.   The Holy Spirit constantly awakens us to keep watch.  (read some more of this on your own.  These are my two favorite nuggets.

CCC 45  Man is made to live in communion with God in whom he finds happiness.  “When I am completely united to you, there will be no more sorrow or trials; entirely full of you, my life will be complete.”  (St. Augustine, Conf. 10,28,39 PL 32, 795)

CCC 769  The Church and through her the world, will not be perfected in glory without great trials.  (read all of this on your own.)

CCC 1742  Freedom and grace  “.  . . the more docile we are to the promptings of grace, the more we grow in inner freedom and confidence during trials. . .”

Family Devotions

The best prayer of all when facing trials and temptations is the Rosary.  No matter where we are in life, we can find ourselves in the Holy Mysteries of the Rosary as they follow the life of Christ and His Blessed Mother.  During trials, walk with Jesus and draw on the strength of your Mother interceding for you.  What ever we are going through, remember, the Rosary “beats the rhythm of human life.”

St. James

St. James

 

Next time:  Let’s talk about it.

@Home Work:  The word dokimion is used in 1:3 for the process of “testing.”  This same word is used for sterling coins that are “genuine” or “without alloy.”  The aim of a trial is to purge us of all impurities so that we become Christlike.  Looking at Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26: 36-46), and using Him as our example, what can we learn from Jesus about our wills in the midst of a trial?

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James 1: 1-8 Points to Ponder: Redemptive Suffering and Trials and Temptations

(If we were “getting together” for this Bible Study, the guide says that we should read the Points to Ponder out loud and together.  So I have put it here in its entirety for you to read and reflect upon.  I also will keep repeating the Memory Verse until the end of Study One, so that we can memorize it.  God bless you!)

Memory Verse

James 1: 2-4  “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

What is the Catholic Teaching on Redemptive Suffering?

(James 1: 1-8 @ Home with the Word-Study 1 pgs. 2-3)

“In coming to grips with suffering, a Catholic should bear in mind both James 1:2 (“count it all ;joy, my brethren when you meet various trials”) and verse 17 (“Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”)  Because we have this eternal Father, we can have an eternal perspective that arises from the eternal goal that awaits us.  That alone not only makes sense out of our suffering, it turns our sufferings into something with redemptive power.  That is absolutely novel and revolutionary in human history!  Nothing else before or after Christianity has really grasped that suffering can be redemptive.  To be sure, the acorn is already present in pre-Christian Judaism and is starting to sprout, but only really takes root and bears fruit in the Tree upon which Christ hung.  The audience to which James wrote was facing two tendencies in pagan thought.  One the one hand was Stoicism, which said ‘Keep a stiff upper lip, bear suffering with a straight face’ but which never thought for a moment to ‘count it all joy.’  On the other had, another pagan school of thought was Platonism which considered the body as a sort of prison for the soul and so could, at times, ‘rejoice’ at the suffering of the body because it was a kind of death knell for the jailer.  Both pagan thought systems had a germ of truth, but both were mixed with tremendous error as well.  The Stoic was right to say we have to bear it, but he couldn’t explain why we could possibly count it joy.  The Platonist was right to look upon the body as a temporary dwelling, but wrong to think the goal of life was to become disembodied.  He did not know about the Resurrection.  And so he thought the body was bad, whereas, in reality, it is the second-highest good.  That is why we are called, like Jesus, to offer our bodies as living sacrifices (Romans 12: 1).  There is no point to offering garbage as sacrifice, only that which is best.  And you offer that which is best to show there is One you prefer even more.

So how do we offer our suffering to God?  In different ways.  If we’re suffering illness, we recognize our own human affliction and weakness. Certainly, we seek treatment, but in the meantime we grow in patience through endurance, knowing that even these suffering can be united with Jesus on the cross.   If sufferings are due to persecution for righteousness’ sake, that’s pure gold without any dross.  That is, we can can thank God that he has honored us to share in Christ’s own sufferings.  On the other hand, if our suffering is due to punishment for sin, even those can be united to Christ as we see the Good Thief crucified with Jesus did with his sufferings.  In addition, it should be noted that some of the most intense forms of suffering are not physical but spiritual.  James, for instance, gives no hint that he’s speaking to a persecuted church.  Rather, he addresses his consolations to poor Christians being exploited by the rich (many of whom appear to be Christian themselves).  Also, there is the intense suffering, not of dying ourselves, but watching a loved one die as Mary had to watch Christ die.  To bear such suffering, or to bear the betrayal of friends whom we trusted as Jesus bore betrayal and abandonment by his disciples is to be very close to the Spirit of Christ.  The bottom line is:  there is no realm of human suffering outside of Christ.  Some forms of suffering are most perfectly Christlike, but every form of suffering is, in some way, able to draw us closer to Christ.”

Trials and Temptations

(James 1: 1-8 @ Home with the Word-Study 1 pg. 3)

“Are trials from God and temptations from concupiscence?  To answer that, we need to know what is ‘concupiscence.’  The CCC (para 1264) tells us that, though baptism removes original sin, nonetheless ‘certain temporal consequences of sin remain in the baptized such as suffering, illness, death, and such frailties inherent in life as weaknesses of character, and so, as well as an inclination to sin that Tradition calls concupiscence, or metaphorically, the tinder for sin (fomes peccati); since concupiscence is left for us to wrestle with, it cannot harm those who do not consent but manfully resist it by the grace of Jesus Christ.  [Council of Trent (1546): DS 1515.]  We may say that trials are from God and temptations are from concupiscence.

Interestingly, the same word in Greek (peirasmos) is used for both ‘trial’ and ‘temptation.’ A trial is an external test.  A temptation is an internal test.  The same word is used in James 1:2 and then again in James 1: 12-13.  We have to recognize the different meanings from the context.  In verse 2, we are told that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness.  So it involves endurance, perseverance, patience and courage.  It’s like a muscle workout for the soul, making healthy muscles even stronger.  In contrast, the internal test we undergo due to our own weakness is what is described in verses 12 and 13.  James relates this passage back to verse 2 and says, ‘Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.’  But then he goes on in verse 13 to say, ‘let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.’  So, on one hand, we are exalted by trial yet humbled by temptation.  Whenever these disordered desires arise in our hearts, we should take a good long look in the mirror (described by James as the ‘perfect law of liberty’ in verses 23-25) and repent.  So, in temptation, we endure suffering, not like athletes at the gym, but as sick people going through physical therapy.  Yet both have their place in God’s plan to do us good.”

St. James

St. James

Next time:  Rome to Home, The CCC Connection, and Family Devotions

@Home Work:  How can we put James 1: 1-8 in practice in our lives?

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