redemptive suffering

Catholics have a realistic view of suffering as part of our human existence. While we do our best to alleviate our pain and that of others, sometimes we are forced to face our own powerless. There is nothing to do but accept it. Our acceptance is not a fatalistic surrender. It is given a deeper meaning and purpose through our belief in the redemptive power of suffering.

We believe that the ultimate act of redemption was the passion and death of Jesus. We display and wear crosses, a hated symbol of execution in Roman times, as a sign of our belief. We speak of Good Friday, not Dark Friday. It was through suffering and death that we are freed from sin and given a promise of eternal life. It’s the ultimate paradox.

We are taught that we, too, can unite our own suffering with that of Jesus. By doing so, our suffering becomes a prayer and a sacrifice – for ourselves and for others. Suffering is no longer meaningless, but is offered up in faith and hope. We are able to tap into the potentiality for good in the midst of evil.

Some persons of faith believe so strongly in the redemptive power of suffering that they impose it upon themselves. I cringed at the penitential excesses portrayed so graphically in The Da Vinci Code. Yes these excesses exist, but please don’t associate all Catholics with a disturbed, fictional albino monk!

Penitential acts, done within reason, are part of our Catholic faith. But I don’t believe we need to seek out suffering or intentionally impose it upon ourselves. Our human condition guarantees that suffering will be a part of our lives, in one degree or another. Freedom from suffering is called heaven. Until we get there, may we all have the spiritual courage and strength we need on the journey.

6 thoughts on “redemptive suffering

  1. While attending the School of Spiritual Direction at the Pecos Benedictine Monastery in NM we were presented with a new term for those who avoid suffering at all costs. They were referred to as“Happy Carrots”.

    “Happy Carrots” are those individuals and groups that are delightfully happy being unconscious. They celebrate their unconsciousness daily by just being happy at knowing who they are all the time, never questioning a thing, and they know exactly who you should be, things are exactly the way they are because this is the way they are meant to be. “Happiness and normal” is around them all the time, because who they are, their values, their culture, their views of themselves as Americans, and Catholics, and their politics and world view, are accepted by them on that superficial level. They do not suffer the cross of dealing with the question: “Is this the person who I was meant to be?” They do not have to struggle to discern the mysteries and ambiguities of life, where God is not in your pocket, and where your identity can not be totally described by a lapel pin.

    Happy carrots are popular, they refuse to negotiate depth. Rather, their journey is a constant affirmation of the popular, collective value. Becoming the dream God had for us when God created us is a call to depth. Deep suffering or deep disorientation, or deep love or a profound experience of God, can blast us out of this rigid group identity. God puts us into a grace filled crisis.

    There is a foolish wisdom in being a “happy carrot”, in believing happiness is our goal. Life itself and grace can draw us into religious paradox, “in order to find oneself one must loose oneself. It brings us back to the gospel where Jesus says, “What does it profit someone if they gain the whole world but loose their soul?” For the “happy carrot” any suffering and the cross are a scandal, they cannot be born again.

  2. My, Ray! That is a perspective that I had not heard before. It explains why cults take hold. They attract people who take refuge as Happy Carrots. It sounds like it also reveals the “shadow side” of “living in the present” and not looking beyond for what GOD wants from us.

    Gee! The things one learns when hanging around this blog!

  3. The monk who taught us about “happy carrots” had just returned from a conference at the Jungian Institute in Switzerland where it was described. When we asked him why the term “happy carrot”, he didn’t know why that was chosen for those who live in a non-spiritual Disney World. He thought it was perhaps, people who have their heads in the ground so as not to notice the needs of others or anything that isn’t “happy”. Since then I have noticed Jungian psychologist who write about spirituality will occasionally use the term “happy carrot”. Here is an example:

      1. If one addresses the “shadow side” and uses it as an exam, it becomes an asset to living in the “present moment.” If it is taken as TRUTH, many suffer through the exam…therefore, it truly becomes a gift to take on the journey.

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