Suffering is a great mystery. Sometimes it makes God feel farther away, while other times feels like God could be no closer. In some cases, suffering appears to be the result of sin—whether mine or another’s—and in many cases, it seems inexplicable if not unjust.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus does not tell us to look for meaning in suffering. He does not promise that everything happens for a reason or suggest that suffering is a test of our faithfulness. He does tell us that if we want to follow him, we must be willing to struggle. That does not mean that we seek out opportunities to endure pain, but it does mean that my relationship with God is worth the struggle it sometimes brings.
Jesus tells us that he suffers, too; he shows God’s solidarity with the entirety of the human condition. When I suffer, I am not alone.
Compassion means “to suffer with.” If I experience suffering, how can I feel compassion for myself and open myself to God’s compassion for me? If I am free from suffering, how can I bring compassion to those I love as well as those who are hard for me to love?
—Dr. Marcus Mescher is Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and is a graduate of Marquette University High School, Marquette University, and Boston College.
God of compassion, be with me this day. Help me become more attentive and responsive to the tenderness of your love, present even when I am struggling. In this Lenten season, make me an instrument of your tenderness in the world.
—Dr. Marcus Mescher