Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
Today's reading from the Letter to the Romans should be familiar to all CUSANS. This text is actually one that helps us to understand Colossians 1:24 in which St. Paul tells us that he "rejoices" in his sufferings. Because chronic illness and disability often involve pain, it is difficult to understand how this could possibly be true. Using the example of a woman in labor, St. Paul details how pain can be a prelude to great happiness and satisfaction.
From the example of the woman in labor, Greek philosophers reasoned that the dawn of a new age, the beginning of a great endeavor, or the inauguration of a new king or emperor would be preceded by a time of turmoil or distress of some kind. Earthquakes and other natural disasters were looked upon as harbingers of change. Just as a woman goes through a time of pain and travail before giving birth, so too the rest of nature would experience a similar time of pain and travail before a momentous change.
One of the underpinnings of the Christian faith is that Jesus will return again in judgment. Much of the literature of the Scriptures that deals with the "Day of the Lord" exhibits the kind of thinking which the Greek philosophers taught. The sacred writers envisioned great natural disasters taking place before that day. In later times, we came to speak of this time as the end of the world.
St. Paul uses this notion to speak of Christ's return. However, he carries it one step further. The time of travail and distress is redemptive in nature. Today's passage from the Letter to the Romans speaks of this directly when he speaks of creation itself being freed from the corruption of sin. St. Bonaventure of Bagnoreggio and other scholastic philosophers from the Middle Ages used this thinking to speak of the redemption of creation rather than the end of the world. It is their contention that God's created universe will eventually experience redemption when Christ comes again just as we will experience the fullness or completion of salvation at that time.
Thus we hold fast to the truth that all suffering that we endure, when joined to the redemptive suffering of our Savior, hastens the day when all the created order of things will benefit from the fruits of Christ's death and resurrection. For this reason, CUSANS can say, "We suffer for a purpose."