"BY THIS SIGN YOU WILL CONQUER" THE CROSS, SUFFERING AND THE DEATH OF THE WEST
Why is it that so many have difficulty looking upon the Cross of Christ and His suffering? Many argue that Jesus is risen therefore why dwell on His suffering?
However, "[I]t is true and even tautological to say that the Cross is the crux of the matter." G.K. Chesterton. The lessons of the Cross are absolutely critical to living a truly christian life. The cross teaches us not only how to live but how to live with meaning and purpose. A christian is not truly a christian if they do not take up their cross.
Unfortunately, the purpose and meaning of suffering is lost on the West. Ayn Rand, the darling of modern atheistic thought rejected the Christian notion of suffering and said: "It's not that I don't suffer, it's that I know the unimportance of suffering, I know that pain is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one's soul..."
The West fights against and throws aside suffering and even those that suffer. This "Schiavo-esque" view rejects all suffering as utterly detestible. We simply don't want to watch the poor soul suffer, so we relieve them of their misery and their life and call it "death with dignity". This explains our embrace of euthanasia, physician assisted suicide, stem cell research, our "termination" of babies and those that are not perfect. The irony is that our culture attempts to avoid suffering at all costs but in doing so has become the "culture of death".
Fr. Pablo Straub says the Devil's one commandment is "Thou Shalt Not Suffer". Our culture has certainly bought this diabolical line. The prevailing culture tells us to gratify our every desire and not to suffer for any reason. It tells parents not to have another child--it's too expensive and difficult; it tells us to indulge our every sexual whim and to embrace sterile sex; it tells women that foregoing a career and staying home to raise children is dull, unfulfilling, and irrelevant; it tells pregnant women that carrying a child for nine months will ruin their life.
Christians need to reject the lies of our culture and reclaim the power of Christ's Cross and our own crosses. "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Cor 12:10)
We can co-operate with God in a profound way by enduring our troubles through the power of His grace. God will strengthen us and, in turn, our cross can become a most powerful prayer. St. Paul enunciated the idea of the redemptive suffering. "I find joy in the sufferings I endure for you. In my own flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His Body, the Church" (Col. 1:24).
The Church does not and never has glorified suffering for its own sake; however it does glorify God by the loving acceptance of suffering when His will entails it. "One ounce of patient suffering is worth far more than a pound of action." J. P. Camus.
The Angel of Fatima told the three children to "Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High . . . Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners . . . Above all, accept and bear with submission the sufferings which the Lord will send you."
It frightens one to think what humanity loses when it ceases to carry the cross and suffer in a manner that glorifies Christ and indeed becomes prayer. Our small acts of sacrifice united to Christ's Cross can achieve the conversion of entire peoples and nations. When we understand suffering and that bearing our cross has unimaginable power, life takes on a profound meaning and purpose. We will cease to become the culture of death and will truly dignify life and death.
"He who knoweth how how to suffer will enjoy much peace. Such a one is a conquerer of himself and lord of the world, a friend of Christ and an heir of heaven. Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ.