It’s very interesting to note that after Christ was rightly identified by Peter to be the son of the living God, and after Christ made Peter the rock on which the invincible Church would be founded, Christ proceeded to talk about his impending passion and death on the cross. (cfr. Mt 16,13-23)
That, of course, astounded the disciples so much that Peter went to the extent of saying, “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you.” For which, Peter received a sharp rebuke from Christ who also went to the extent of saying, “Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”
This gospel episode, of course, tells us that if we truly follow Christ, then like him, we should not only expect suffering and death but also welcome them. That’s because in the first place we cannot avoid suffering and death in this life, no matter how much we try. But more importantly, if we have the same attitude Christ had toward his suffering and death, we know that our own would have a positive and redemptive value.
This is what Christian suffering and death is all about. It is a consequence of all our sins but is now converted into a means of our salvation, that is, if we suffer and die with Christ.
We need to understand well this basic truth of our faith so that we can avoid suffering unduly or suffering more than we ought. In other words, this truth of our faith enables us to suffer and die properly.
We all need to be reminded that all our suffering has a positive and favorable aspect. It’s not all entirely bad and negative, though in itself it will always be bad. But if viewed and lived through our Christian faith, that is, with Christ, there is something in it that can give us a greater good.
Our pains and suffering are always the result of sin, ours and those of the others. They are the necessary consequence of our separation, whether temporary or permanent, from God from whom all good things come. (cfr. Ps 16,2; James 1,17) We may not be the direct cause of our own suffering, but in this world, we cannot escape the effects of sin, and so we must be ready for them just the same.
We have to remind ourselves that we are not meant to suffer. Our original as well as our ideal definitive state in heaven excludes suffering. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, were in the state of original justice, where everything was in order and in harmony. No pain and suffering touched them, until they fell into sin.
And as the Book of Revelation would put it, in our definitive state of life in heaven “He (God) will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (21,4)
In this life, we have to expect and be prepared for the unavoidable pain and suffering. And this means that whether we are guilty or not of our pains and suffering, all we have to do is to go immediately to Christ who shows us how to handle our pains and suffering and who is ready to forgive us if ever we are guilty of suffering.
We should have this Christian attitude toward all our suffering and death in this world!*