I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Suffering is a deeper calling from God

All three readings for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time address the yet-to-be-redeemed within each of us that is crying out for freedom. This cry for freedom within is also a cry for help from God. The suffering this entails is filled with the presence of God at work in our hearts.

Take Jeremiah for example. In the first reading he tells us, "You duped me, O Lord and I let myself be duped." He allowed himself to be "duped" when he first received and warmly welcomed God's word into his heart. He tells us in Chapter 16, verse 6: "When I found your words, I devoured them; they became my joy and the happiness of my heart." God's word spoke to Jeremiah's spirit within, which was crying out for redemption.

However, as that word began to redeem Jeremiah's heart, he began to groan at its purifying power. Does that sound familiar to you and to me? When he complained to God about this God responded, "If you repent, so that I restore you, in my presence you shall stand; If you bring forth the precious without the vile, you shall then be my mouthpiece."

This did not end Jeremiah's suffering, but it brought him great peace when he was persecuted for proclaiming the word of God. Now his suffering was not the result of his own sin, but the result of the persecution of those who did not want to hear the word of God. Does all of this sound familiar?

When you first witness to fallen away friends and relatives, you might at times lose your peace. However, when you begin to live a repentant life, you become a sign of hope even to those who oppose you. There is a call within the suffering you experience. It is the call to inner growth, to a deeper interior freedom. The Lord needs the opposition around you to help redeem you. We are all in the same boat. It is an invitation from Christ on the cross to join Him in His great work of redemption. Know that if you are suffering from witnessing His good news to others, you are not suffering alone. He is suffering in you and through you, and that is why your suffering is so powerful.

This fits in so well with the second reading from Paul to the Romans. Paul is urging: "Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." Have you ever thought of your body as a living sacrifice, when you suffer pain because of God's word purifying you? Just as fire transforms an animal sacrifice into a spiritual sacrifice, so God's word transforms us body, soul and spirit by the power of His purifying word.

It is when we are in the midst of this unpleasant pain that we just want to run, or be distracted by some intense human pleasure. However, it is at that very time that we need to welcome and embrace the suffering that is bringing about the inner transformation. This is God at work within us! Why would we want to run from Him?

Even if we do not understand what is transpiring within, it is important that we take it to prayer for strength and guidance. Little by little, we will be able to ask God what He wants of us. This is God's divine intervention in our lives. He is calling us to surrender our human ways for His redeemed ways. If we remain prayerful, we can depend upon this divine intervention until the day we breathe our last.

The Gospel gives us a very vivid demonstration of how violently our unredeemed reacts at times. When Jesus speaks about His death and rising, Peter rebukes Jesus saying, "God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you." Jesus' detection of the Evil One was swift. He said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me." What is more satanic than to deny God's mercy to all of mankind?

Jesus then tells His disciples, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." This is the call to inner freedom. This is the call to intimacy with Christ.

Every time we experience suffering, whether it results from our own sins or the sins of others, there is a deeper calling in this suffering. The fact that this calling is not readily apparent is very exciting, because it is an indication that God is calling us to something higher and more profound than anything we have ever before experienced.

God is not calling us to complete projects in this life. Those projects in themselves do not have a place in the kingdom of heaven, but we do! He is really calling us to turn over our very selves to Him. He doesn't want our projects. He wants us!

If we deny to God the surrender of our lives until God takes our lives from us, we deny Jesus the opportunity to do something beautiful for the Father. Therefore, suffering in our lives is a calling to invite Jesus into our lives as they are at the present time.

Jesus has the skills, given to Him by the Father, to make something beautiful out of our lives if only we live them in warm and gracious surrender to Him. Rather than creating wonderful projects to hand over to the Lord, why not hand over to Him our very lives each day as a living sacrifice of praise? The friendship we experience with Him makes our purification a love experience. Paul tells us in Galatians, "I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me."

Weekly readings

Sunday, August 24

21st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 22:15, 19-23

Psalms 138:1-2, 2-3, 6, 8

Romans 11:33-36

Matthew 16:13-20

Monday, August 25

21st week in Ordinary Time

2nd Thessalonians 1:1-5, 11-12

Psalms 96:1-2, 2-3, 4-5

Matthew 23:13-22

Tuesday, August 26

21st week in Ordinary Time

2nd Thessalonians 2:1-3, 14-16

Psalms 96:10, 11-12, 13

Matthew 23:23-26

Wednesday, August 27

St. Monica - Memorial

2nd Thessalonians 3:6-10, 16-18

Psalms 128:1-2, 4-5

Matthew 23:27-32

Thursday, August 28

St. Augustine, bishop and doctor - Memorial

1st Corinthians 1:1-9

Psalms 145:2-3, 4-5, 6-7

Matthew 24:42-51

Friday, August 29

Beheading of St. John the Baptist, martyr - Memorial

1st Corinthians 1:17-25

Psalms 33:1-2, 4-5, 10-11

Mark 6:17-29

Saturday, August 30

21st week in Ordinary Time

1st Corinthians 1:26-31

Psalms 33:12-13, 18-19, 20-21

Matthew 25:14-30 

Sunday, August 31

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah 20:7-10

Romans 12:1-2

Matthew 16:20-27 

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