Rejoicing in Our Sufferings?, 23rd Monday (I), September 11, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Monday of the 23rd Week of Ordinary Time, Year I
16th Anniversary of 9/11, Mass for Justice and Peace
September 11, 2017
Col 1:24-2:3, Ps 62, Lk 6:6-11


To listen to an audio recording of this homily, please click below: 


The following points were attempted in this homily:

  • We begin today a very powerful week in the liturgy. On Thursday we will celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, tomorrow the Holy Name of Mary, whose heart was pierced, as we will mark on Friday with Mary’s participation in that Cross as we celebrate her name as Our Lady of Sorrows, on Saturday, we will commemorate the martyrs Saints Cyprian and Cornelius and remember the dry martyr Cardinal François Xavier Nguyen van Thuan, on Wednesday we’ll celebrate St. John Chrysostom who suffered so much for preaching the truth. It’s a week in which we will ponder our “spes unica,” our only hope, which is Christ on the Cross and our summons to pick up our Cross every day and unite ourselves to him. It’s a week to help us to recall that the Cross is not so much a sign of pain but of the love that bears pain, it’s not a curse but a caress, not a punishment but a privilege.
  • In the Gospel we see Jesus suffering for doing good, for saving, for giving witness to the true meaning of the Sabbath. This would be a foretaste of Good Friday when the Sanhedrin, Pharisees, Scribes, Saduccees and Herodians all conspired to execute Jesus. The Jews had totally misunderstood the meaning of the Sabbath, which was to restore us, to liberate us from self-imposed slavery. The Jews thought that the prohibition against servile work meant that Jews couldn’t even morally do acts of love. Jesus asked the rather absurd question as to whether God would be pleased or displeased if people did good on the Sabbath rather than evil, to save life rather than to destroy it. They didn’t answer, for obvious reasons. The truth is that the Pharisees, on the Sabbath, were precisely there trying to do evil, to entrap Jesus, to plot to destroy his life, but they thought that that was somehow kosher while Jesus’ healing the withered hand of a man was somehow what God wanted to prevent. Nevertheless, Jesus was willing to embrace the Cross, the sufferings, in order to restore this man and to restore us all to health.
  • Another who was willing to embrace the Cross was St. Paul, who would elsewhere eventually learn to boast in the Cross of the Lord through which the world was crucified to him and him to the world, the Cross he said was God’s “power and wisdom,” the Cross by which he was crucified by Christ so that the life he now lived in the flesh he lived by faith in the Son of God who loved him and gave his life for him. He embraced it in his manifold sufferings — whippings, stonings, shipwrecks, persecution, anxiety for the Churches, imprisonment and eventually beheading. But despite all of this, he said, in words on which Christians should never cease to ponder, “I rejoice in my sufferings.” His sufferings filled him with joy. He rejoiced, he said, in them because he was making up what was lacking in his own flesh of the sufferings of Christ. This is a much misinterpreted passage because the translations aren’t accurate. Christ’s sufferings aren’t lacking, but our participation in them is. Our suffering, however, helps us to enter into Christ’s sufferings, and this is part of our own restoration. The great mystery hidden for centuries, St. Paul goes on to say, is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Christ restores us from within, seeks to unite us totally to his Passion, but we need to allow this hope of glory to penetrate within the occasional darkness of suffering. St. Paul was writing all of this in the context of his being in a prison cell dictating a letter to the Church in Colossae where the gnostic heresy was spreading like a spiritual flu. The Gnostics were dualists who believed that matter was evil and that God was strictly spiritual; for that reason there could be nothing like the incarnation. Some of them thought Christ couldn’t have been God; most thought the Christ just “seemed” to have a human body, but there was therefore no suffering, no crucifixion, no resurrection of the body, no sacraments (which use matter), no Mystical Body, etc. St. Paul was saying that the mystery that was being revealed was not merely that God had become man in Christ, but that he wanted to become Christ in us, to take up his dwelling place within us. The means by which he would become perfect in us is through the Cross, so that we could die to whatever in us was not worthy of God, and learn to love like him. This is why St. Paul was willing to endure a “great struggle.”
  • Here on earth, the summit of this mystery of “Christ in you” literally takes place at Mass. Today as we remember not only the evils and the sufferings caused 16 years ago in the terrorist attacks, but also the heroism of those who endured suffering and fear to try to saye others, with many dying in the process, we approach Christ and ask him to help make us through this Holy Communion more like Todd Beamer on United 93, more like the firemen who rushed into rather than from danger, more like those through whom Christ’s like shown in the midst of dust and darkness. Christ in us happens in a special way in the Eucharist and sends us out, together with him, with joy even and especially in times when Christ blesses us with the Cross so that we might become more and more like him.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1
COL 1:24–2:3

Brothers and sisters:
I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake,
and in my flesh I am filling up
what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ
on behalf of his Body, which is the Church,
of which I am a minister
in accordance with God’s stewardship given to me
to bring to completion for you the word of God,
the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past.
But now it has been manifested to his holy ones,
to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory
of this mystery among the Gentiles;
it is Christ in you, the hope for glory.
It is he whom we proclaim,
admonishing everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.
For this I labor and struggle,
in accord with the exercise of his power working within me.
For I want you to know how great a struggle I am having for you
and for those in Laodicea
and all who have not seen me face to face,
that their hearts may be encouraged
as they are brought together in love,
to have all the richness of assured understanding,
for the knowledge of the mystery of God, Christ,
in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Responsorial Psalm
PS 62:6-7, 9

R. (8) In God is my safety and my glory.
Only in God be at rest, my soul,
for from him comes my hope.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed.
R. In God is my safety and my glory.
Trust in him at all times, O my people!
Pour out your hearts before him;
God is our refuge!
R. In God is my safety and my glory.

LK 6:6-11

On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught,
and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.
The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely
to see if he would cure on the sabbath
so that they might discover a reason to accuse him.
But he realized their intentions
and said to the man with the withered hand,
“Come up and stand before us.”
And he rose and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them,
“I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
rather than to do evil,
to save life rather than to destroy it?”
Looking around at them all, he then said to him,
“Stretch out your hand.”
He did so and his hand was restored.
But they became enraged
and discussed together what they might do to Jesus.