On Suffering and Hope and Forever

‘In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ’s sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering.’ (CCC 1368)

José Benlliure Ortiz, “Leaving Mass in Rocafort,” 1915
José Benlliure Ortiz, “Leaving Mass in Rocafort,” 1915 (photo: Public Domain)

Yesterday I sat at a meeting, and in the course of discussion of ordering doughnuts and making flyers, friendships were enkindled with the sharing of labors and of sufferings. My sister called to talk about the stresses of moving and homeschooling. When I got home, a friend texted me requesting songs for planning a funeral. Google could have given answers but she didn't really want just the lists. She wanted someone to look over the words and find the right ones that might comfort when all the world felt fragile.

Burdens shared are halved, just as joys shared double the happiness. We should know this from the Mass, from the reality of all the pews filled with people carrying silent crosses that would otherwise crush. The graces that come from sharing the readings and the songs and the Body and Blood of Christ allow each of us to share even if we do not know the reality or each other’s names, in each other’s lives — and help place our paralyzed souls before the Lord.

God has thrown open the doors, inviting us in from the opening bells. The Mass knits together the father dropping off his only daughter at college, and the grandparents holding hands in the first pew, and the three college students who are comforting a fourth over a break up, and the lonely overworked grad student trying to discern, “What next? What now?”

When we leave, our souls have at least one thread woven to each of the other souls that participated in this and every Mass, and all the souls in Heaven who celebrate with us. This is a comfort to all of us, to know that all of Heaven prays with us and takes our worries and our crosses to Christ. He delights in being our Savior, in using these sufferings and trials to reveal both his deep love for us, and our faith to the world, so as to invite more souls to trust his love.

It’s a gift to go and offer your trials and sufferings and pains on the altar, and to trust God's goodness to make something holy out of it, to bring to us a peace we would not imagine possible given our pain.

It is the promise of Christ, when he promises to prepare a place for us. It is the promise of God the Father, who is always looking for all his faraway children, hoping today to host a feast. It is the promise of the Holy Spirit, who seeks to guide us to love God and others ever more deeply by helping us glimpse those hidden crosses carried by others. The Holy Trinity promises us that suffering isn't forever or the end, and calls us to live in hope of the joy of forever.