Today is the feast day of St. John of God. After having been a soldier at the age of 40 he recognized that his life was filled with sin so he made a decision to change his life, to turn away from sin and follow Jesus. Then he was inspired by a sermon by Blessed John of Avila to give himself a beating, and he repented for his sins. Would Jesus want us to purposefully inflict pain on ourselves, cause pain to ourselves, in order to repent? I believe firmly in repentance of sins but I just don’t see how God would want us to inflict harm upon oneself to aid in repenting for one’s sins. In reading I have noticed that a number of saints inflicted pain upon themselves before repenting. Why? What belief would have them do this? I would think that God wouldn’t want to any person to be inflicting pain purposely upon themselves. Since God is the creator wouldn’t this be displeasing to him? Wouldn’t that be dishonoring God’s wonderful creation, of yourself?
Ecclesiastes 3: 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.
Ezekiel 18: 32 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.”
I just think there is a difference between enduring suffering whether it be emotional or physical pain, and inflicting pain upon oneself, even if it was intended to repent for one’s sins. I just don’t see God as delighting in persons torturing themselves.
St. John of God was advised by Blessed John to focus on tending to the needs of others, to be more active in helping others instead of inflicting pain upon himself. Not long after that his heart came to be at peace and began to dedicate his life to helping the poor and sick. He established a house where he tended to the needs of the poor and sick. Some people were so inspired by his devotion to help the poor that they donated money and provisions so that he would be able to continue his work in assisting the poor. St. John’s unlimited and unconditional acts of love for Christ’s poor along with his deep interior prayer life which outwardly reflected a spirit of humility that inspired helpers to aid him in helping the needy. He died after 10 years of service in helping the poor. Twenty years after his death these helpers founded the Brothers Hospitallers, who are still a worldwide order today.
The name Brothers Hospitallers fascinates me so I searched looked them up on the internet. Here is their website.
Here is a little information about the Brothers Hospitallers.
Our institute was approved by the Church as an Order of Brothers with the mission to provide assistance for the sick and needy. It had its origin in Granada, Spain, in the second half of the 16th century to continue the charitable apostolate of Saint John of God, who was born at Montemor-o-Novo (Portugal) and died in Granada on the 8th of March 1550.
Saint John of God had been joined by several followers, who were attracted by his example and who helped him in works of mercy, especially in the hospital he founded in Granada. Outstanding among these followers was Anthony Martin; at the moment of death, John entrusted him with the continuation and supervision of the work. In the following years other companions joined the group, and a number of hospitals were founded.
Our identity as Brothers consecrated in hospitality commits us to encouraging, fostering and establishing bonds of fraternity with all those who wish to join us to share our spirituality, charism and/or mission as Co-workers.
Here is their mission statement: We, The Brothers of St. John of God are called to witness to the people of God, Christ’s healing love as expressed by our charism of hospitality, through a community of faith and a compassionate service to God’s suffering people.
P.S. — My husband, upon reading this post prior to publication, pointed out to me a verse that could provide scriptural support for literally beating oneself up. It is 1st Corinthians 9:27 – But I chastise my body and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway. The word translated here as “chastise”, which is rendered in other versions variously as “buffet”, “hit hard”, “beat”, “subdue” is ὑπωπιάζω (hypōpiazō) – it literally signifies bruising, especially around the face, and could also be translated as “beat black and blue”. This word occurs in one other place in scripture, Luke 18:5, in the Parable of the Persistent Widow and the Unjust Judge, who likens her constant nagging of him to hear her case to being beaten black and blue by her: There was a judge in a certain city, who feared not God, nor regarded man. 3And there was a certain widow in that city, and she came to him, saying: Avenge me of my adversary. 4And he would not for a long time. But afterwards he said within himself: Although I fear not God, nor regard man, 5Yet because this widow is troublesome to me, I will avenge her, lest continually coming she weary (hypōpiazō) me. (verses 2-5)
Yet in that instance the unjust judge is certainly speaking metaphorically.