Friday, October 27, 2006

Suffering in the Meantime ...

Speaking of Jesus at the Last Supper, Hans Urs von Balthasar writes:
He does not act in the Cenacle as a soloist before an auditorium that listens to him, as an actor on stage before onlookers in theater seats. He always acts in such a way that he draws those who belong to him into his act.
My wife’s continued ill-health and her patience in dealing with the many difficulties involved brings to mind one of von Balthasar’s reflections in the final volume of his Theo-Drama series. The genuine disciple of Christ, von Balthasar writes, “is promised chiefly pain and difficulty; he is urged to show courage, trust and confidence in divine help.”
For the Old Testament believer, temptation and even misfortune was primarily a sign that he had become guilty before God; in extreme instances (Job), it represented a baffling evil. For the Christian it is rather a confirmation of his discipleship of the Lord. ... Recognizing his suffering as Christ’s, and as a grace, he can enjoy the Christian hope that – in however hidden a manner – this suffering, in union with Christ’s, will promote the salvation of the world.
The suffering that is meaningless to worldly eyes is experienced by a Christian as a participation in Christ’s Passion – “making up for what is lacking in the suffering of Christ.” It contributes in real but inscrutable ways to both the sanctification of the sufferer and the redemption of the world. The meaning a Christian experiences in the midst of seemingly meaningless suffering, however, encompasses the meaninglessness rather than eliminating it. One thinks of that stunning line from a Robert Frost poem in which Job interrogates God, complaining about the senseless suffering he had to endure. God replies: "It had to seem unmeaning to have meaning."

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