Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Crucifix . . .

I just was watching a recorded Franciscan University Roundtable with Scott Hahn, Fr. Scanlan, Regis Martin and Prof. Sivilla re: suffering. Scott (Dr. Hahn) just mentioned one of my favorite people during my whole 27 years in the Evangelical world, Dr. Francis Schaffer. When he was dying and in his hospital bed, he told his son, "I never couldn't stand to look at a crucifix...and now it has become my 'best friend!'" I guess Dr. Schaffer had almost 'contempt' for a crucifix. But how that changed in the face and midst of his own agony!

My jaw dropped upon hearing that. I'd read most all if not all of Francis's books, and to find out that as he lay dying, (he was in a Catholic hospital, btw) the crucifix became his "best friend!" That's incredible and astonishing and WONDERFUL to know! Look how "REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING" as all of the Catholics of "old" talked about, came to play a most significant role in the last days, hours of this dear man's life! When we were in the Evangelical world, there was NO talk whatsoever of 'redemptive suffering' because that theology was so "Americanized" that to think our suffering might really "play a part" in 'working out our salvation' and have real "value" was unthinkable to many, if not most folks in our congregation. The prescription was "lay hands" on someone and "they will be healed!" BUT, and the big BUT it was, "What if they're not???!!!" Then WHAT?

This photo is the corpus, the LIFE SIZE crucifix atop our church, St. Robert Bellarmine, Omaha NE. Jesus is sculpted to be 5'11'' and about 180 lbs. [We also have, right behind the lectern, this same corpus. The interesting detail is that Jesus isn't 'dead' yet. There's no wound in his side, so he's still calling us, and still breathing and still speaking to the thief, to his disciple, John (the Church) to his Mother. ] This crucifix has been visible to all of Omaha driving by every day for 2 years now. To my knowledge no one has written and complained in the editorial section about this overt attempt to "shove religion" down the throats of those who "may not believe" as we do. Thank God! But, when I wrote a friend who's still foraging in the evangelical theology, (in her 3rd "church" since I've known her, for almost 10 years) she had nothing to say about this beautiful example of what it means to "follow Christ." She ignored my words completely. She's a very dear and good person, missionary to Uganda many times, helps tons of people and has been a blessing to know, and I see her give and give, but yet, there's something profoundly "not quite right" in that when I bring up suffering as in 'redemptive'.... I get the silence, the proverbial 'no comment.'

She's seen her share of profound and brutal suffering in Uganda the likes of which I've never seen.Granted, my puny suffering's been nothing like that of those orphaned children and tribesmen and women she's helped bring the Gospel to, though it is still my suffering and significant in my life. However, since being Catholic for 3 years now, and learning more and more about suffering and the mystery of it, and yet how it is so vital to incorporate into my life as a Christian and follower of Christ, even in my "miniscule" suffering, I'm seeing the value of how to mesh that with the suffering Christ, there upon the cross, bloody and gasping and finally dying...suffering to the extreme for me, to redeem mankind. We're to 'take up our crosses' and follow Jesus or we're NOT following Jesus! We don't know what to do with suffering. It angers us and scares us breathless, yet, we can and must unite our sufferings, no matter how small or how huge with those of Jesus, for he became Man and suffered LIKE US in all ways, without sin.

I am only so grateful to be in the Catholic Church, where suffering isn't 'run from' or 'quickly assaulted with prayers to be delivered immediately per se. Not that we don't try to alleviate suffering, by no means, God forbid! However, NOW, there's more HOPE in my own suffering as I've seen it play out, even these last 2 months offering the pain in my bones every night for a friend, Fr. G., and to have heard "HOPE" in his voice during a recent conversation on the phone. Two months ago he told me not to pray for him, that he wasn't worth it, and to not waste my prayers on him. Sunday night, he actually THANKED me for my prayers. He said he appreciated it very much. That is HUGE, my friends! That is a miracle that has occured in his heart, and to be offered this consaltion, that my prayers and faith have played a part in him receiving and finding hope to "make it" now, has given my heart wings! It in turn gives me hope, as well, to keep on praying and to keep on fighting the fight and to keep on offering my aches and pains, (that occur nightly and wake me up every 2 hours or less,) for him and my sons. We can choose to be Job, and complain but yet pray, or we can be like the bitter thief, and despair of our suffering, to the point that we don't hear the words of Jesus, even as he died, "Today you will be with me in Paradise." Those words were said to the repentant thief who 'offered his suffering' to Christ, in humility and in his need.

Take a moment and just gaze at this Jesus hanging on this cross. Offer up your own struggle your pain and suffering and say "let me go with You, all the way, die to myself and die with You Lord." "I offer up my suffering this day for You and Your Kingdom and for all of the poor souls, who've no one to pray for them, especially those of priests and religious in purgatory." Amen.
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Anonymous said...

Great post..thankyou..

WhiteStoneNameSeeker said...

Thank you for this Susie, it is a very important part of our Faith. I don't think I could have coped with some of the the stuff I've been through over the years if I had not felt it had a meaning-that God could use it to help others or in His shaping of me.

Tiber Jumper said...

one of your best posts Sue!
The theology of redemptive suffering is what drew Prodigal Daughter into the Church in the first place!
Tonite She and I teach RCIA on suffering, death and the resurrection.
Great timing for me to read your post.
God bless

Cow Bike Rider (alias, Chris Sagsveen) said...

Good Post!

Joyful Catholics said...

Thank you both.
: )

Joyful Catholics said...

I mean to say, thank you to all 4 of you for your comments. I know one thing, hope begets hope and without hope,we see what despair can do, it makes the heart and mind sick, which is what we witnessed in Omaha yesterday from a young man who was so hopeless he had to take his life and the lives of innocent people. Without reaching out to grace, and not having hope, what evil one is capable of is astounding.

There but by the grace of God go I.