Holy Week begins the greatest week of the liturgical year. As we enter more deeply into His passion and death, we discover Jesus entering our passion, our struggle with sin, weaknesses and inconsistencies. There's no doubt that Christ suffers much in our lives, gradually conquering our rebellious nature with the same love that led Him through His passion.
The first and third readings for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time tell about the incredible future that awaits beyond our troubled times.
Malachi is a prophet, not a Dale Carnegie. He tells how it is, not how we would like to perceive it. His imagery is frank, direct and even brutal. "Lo the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch."
What if we have to suffer — how do we bear it with faith?
This week features readings from the book of Job, so it's a good time to ask that question.
An important feature of Job's story is unmerited suffering. He suffered the loss of oxen, sheep, camels and children — all in one day. His friends asked what sin he had committed to deserve this punishment. Job insisted — truthfully — that he had committed no sin.
In the context in which it was written, that was precisely the point. The book of Job helped the Israelites reflect on unmerited suffering, both individually and nationally.
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.
In his apostolic exhortation, "On Human Suffering," St. John Paul II quotes St. Paul extensively on the redemptive meaning of human suffering. Suffering is a mystery, and St. John Paul acknowledges that it can be a stumbling block for those who wonder why a good God permits His children to experience all kinds of mental, emotional and physical pain.