I am going to be doing a series of posts on redemptive suffering during these two weeks before my surgery. I need to do this because I am physically and to some extent emotionally worn out. Redemptive suffering is offering up your suffering in union with Jesus on the cross.
In Theology For The Laity Father Paul A. Duffner, O.P. posts on redemptive suffering. I will post parts of that here.
It was not in the plan of God that suffering and death be a part of human existence. That they became the lot of the human race was not God’s doing, but man’s. God made man in His own likeness and image, desiring to share with him His own infinite happiness and goodness. He endowed man with special gifts that made him immune from all suffering, and free of the necessity of undergoing death. These gifts, however, were not essential to human nature and could be lost.
God endowed man with free-will, in order that man would have to freely choose God above all things before entering into the beatitude of heaven. But, as we know, it was man’s free will that upset what God had planned, for our first parents rebelled against the restriction placed on their freedom, wishing to decide for themselves what they could do or not do. As a result, they not only were not admitted into heaven, but they lost for themselves and their descendants those gifts that made them immune from suffering and death.
THE NEED OF REDEMPTION
Because of his sin Adam was utterly displeasing to God, and because of the loss of grace he was unable to do anything that would win God’s favor. God could have left mankind in that helpless state of eternal separation from Himself; or He could simply have pardoned man, restoring all the gifts he had lost. But God would accept neither of those solutions.
In His mercy He sent His only begotten Son to become a member of the human race to offer, on behalf of mankind, the infinite reparation that divine justice demanded. The divine Word took on a human body and soul in order that He could suffer to pay the penalty that a just God demanded in expiation for the sins of the world. Because He was man, He could pay the debt on the part of the human race; and because He was God, the reparation He offered was infinite.
WHY THE PASSION?
Christ could have offered sufficient reparation without the Passion, for His every deliberate act was one of infinite love, sufficient to redeem the whole of mankind. But the Father willed the way of the Passion, the way of suffering. St. Thomas Aquinas explains why: (III, 46,3) (III, 48,1, ad 2)
The Passion made God’s love for us so much more manifest, suffering so much on our behalf. “You have been bought at a great price” (1 Cor. 6:20). “Greater love than this no man has . . .” (Jn. 15:13). By His passion man is stirred to love God in return, and in this love of God lies man’s perfection.
It helps man to realize the enormous evil of sin, when God would go to such length to make reparation for it.
It helps us to see more clearly the justice of God, Who willed the death of His own Son to repair for sin; and the mercy of God in the way He applies to sinners the merits of Christ’s sufferings.
It gives such a wonderful example of humility and obedience, those indispensable virtues in loving God. Through PRIDE and DISOBEDIENCE Adam refused God the love and homage due Him. Through HUMILITY and OBEDIENCE Christ offered His Father the love and submission due Him.
It shows clearly the immense love of Jesus for His Father, Whom He obeyed “even to the death of the Cross” (Phil. 2:8). When Christ went forth to the Passion, He told the apostles that He did so “that the world may know that I love the Father” (Jn.14:31).
The Passion of Christ was especially valuable in teaching the necessity of suffering if fallen man (having the use of reason) is to attain his eternal salvation.
By the sufferings in His human nature during the Passion by which mankind was redeemed, Christ gave to all suffering experienced in the members of His Mystical Body a redeeming power when accepted and offered up in union with His Passion. As Pope John Paul II wrote:
“In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his sufferings, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ” (Salvifici Doloris).
Speaking on one occasion to a group of infirm persons suffering from various illnesses and handicaps, the present Holy Father recalled the great mercy of Christ in the many times He miraculously cured the lame, the blind, the deaf, the leprous, etc.; and how to save the newly-weds embarrassment, He miraculously changed water into wine. But, he said, there is here an even greater miracle, a greater mercy – when He gives to human suffering a supernatural value. All the miracles mentioned were changes on the purely natural level; that is, the gift given in each miracle was some benefit of the natural order. But when He transforms human suffering giving it a supernatural value, a supernatural power, that is a far greater gift, a far greater miracle. But it is a gift so little appreciated, for it is known only in the light of faith; and the faith of many is weak. How many opportunities for spiritual growth and for helping others are wasted in complaining about the crosses of life.