Faces on Faith: Redemptive suffering
Faces on Faith … pick up standing column mugshot for Rev. Christopher Senk … (we used the wrong mugshot last week)
We are on the threshold of the most important feast for all those who call themselves Christian, the great feast of Easter, our celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
Starting with Palm Sunday, the final events of Jesus’ earthly life were dramatically played out for us in some of the oldest liturgical celebrations of the Church – Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his Last Supper with his disciples, his Passion and Death on a cross. In this holiest of weeks we are tempted to look on his crucifixion as the defining moment in Jesus’ life, and yet it is the resurrection which set Jesus apart from other itinerant preachers, a point made so beautifully by Rev. Dr. Daryl Donovan in last week’s Faces on Faith column.
It was the resurrection which replaced despair with hope; it was the resurrection which truly gave people something to talk about; it was the resurrection which gave momentum to the building up of a kingdom referred to often by Jesus. Good Friday can never be separated from Easter Sunday, both in our liturgical celebrations as well as in our personal lives.
One of the most important and useful things that Jesus taught us at the end of his earthly life was the concept of “redemptive suffering.” Jesus demonstrated in his embrace of the cross that suffering, hardship, and difficulty can lead us, just as they led Jesus, to the resurrection. Jesus prayed fervently in the Garden of Gethsemane that the cup of suffering that he faced would pass him by. The fullness of the humanity embraced by Jesus is seen so clearly in the Garden where Jesus struggles with the tension to be obedient to God’s plan.
Every human bone in Jesus’ body recoiled from the impending doom that awaited him, and yet Jesus believed that God’s promises would be fulfilled and that on the “third day” he would rise. Jesus could see beyond the darkness of Gethsemane and Calvary to the light of Easter morning.
If our sufferings are to be “redemptive,” we too need to look beyond the challenges of the present moment. As Christians we unite our sufferings with those of Christ, confident that God’s promises to us will be fulfilled. As Christians we look beyond the darkness of Calvary to the bright light of Easter, in order that despair might be overwhelmed by hope, in order that pain might be lessened by Christian joy, and in order that fear might be dispelled by confidence.
Dom Alban Boultwood, a Benedictine Abbot of St. Anselm Abbey in Washington, D.C., said of all Christians that we are an “alleluia people.” We never morosely wallow in the sadness of Good Friday, for we are always looking ahead to the bright promise of Easter Sunday. May our Easter celebration be filled with a hope that can never be taken away from us, a joy that is without end, and a peace that can only come from being obedient to God’s will.