The Eucharist, Mary, and Redemptive Suffering

"Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church" (Colossians 1:24).

Redemptive suffering.  It is that mysterious but incredible reality that the suffering God allows into our lives, when accepted and lived with trust in His Love for us, become an actual participation in the sufferings of the Crucified, allowing us to be formed more truly His image – the very goal of our Faith!  And, as Paul said above, because we are "members of one another" (Rom.12:5; Eph.5:25), this grace is of benefit not just to us, but to the entire Body.  This teaching, far from casting aspersions on the efficacy of Jesus’sacrifice, proclaims its superabundance.  We believe that His sacrifice redeems us so profoundly that it transforms us from mere creatures of God into sons and daughters.  It transforms us into cells of Jesus’ Mystical Body, inserting us into the Life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the only Son! This reality is there in the theology of Paul, and unpacked for us in the teaching of the saints and doctors.  What I’d never recognized before though, was how it was contained in Jesus’ institution of the Eucharist.

When we start to meditate on that Fifth Luminous Mystery, we naturally hear His words, "This is My Body …. This is My Blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many."  And in a moment of grace, we’re reminded where Jesus took His Body and Blood from — His Mother Mary.  Jesus clothed Himself with her flesh, her blood, and offered Himself to the Father "in" them.  That is the mystery of redemptive suffering that the Lord wants to continue in you and me — to clothe Himself with our very persons and lift our sufferings up into His own, making them part of His eternal offering to the Father (Heb.9:14).  As with Mary, He requires our consent to bring about this supernatural reality, "I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" (Luke 1:38).

We see Mary, fully engaged in this Mystery, there at the foot of her Son’s Cross.  Which of us parents haven’t imagined looking up and seeing our own children hanging there in the sun — their bodies ripped, blood flowing down their limbs, suffocating under their own weight.  It is the most monstrous suffering imaginable, but God allowed it into the life of His beloved Mary.  Her Son was dying to redeem the world, and her heart was pierced right along with His (Jn.19:34; Lk.2:35). Jesus was suffering there before her eyes, in the flesh He took from her; but through the chords of grace He was suffering in and through her person, gazing up at Him, as well.  Through it all, the Holy Spirit maintained Mary in her fiat , "let it be to me according to your word;" and Scripture tells us that He made her suffering fruitful for the Mystical Body, "[Mary,] a sword will pierce your own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed" (Lk.2:35).  The mystery of redemptive suffering spoken of by Paul in Colossians 1:24 is graphically manifested by Mary at the Cross.

I don’t see any romance in pain, and I don’t desire it; but part of reality is recognizing that God allows me to pass through it.  It is not an end in itself, but a potentially powerful means: "For Jesus’ sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" (Phil.3:8-11).  So I need to call out for the grace to unite my sufferings to those of Jesus, to allow Him to lift me up toward His Father, "This is My Body…This is My Blood."  I need to pray each day for the grace to persevere through suffering; Jesus told us the stakes are high, "Because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt.24:12-13).

O Jesus living in Mary,
come and live in Thy servants,
In the Spirit of Thy holiness,
In the fullness of Thy might,
In the truth of Thy virtues
In the communion of Thy mysteries,
Subdue every hostile power
In Thy Spirit, for the glory of the Father.  Amen.

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  • We each need to know that our suffering matters, that it isn’t just some meaningless exercise in Divine retribution. Everybody suffers to one degree or another in this life; whether it’s the loss of loved ones, or sickness, or poverty–there seems to be no end to the ways in which we can and must suffer. We try to avoid suffering when possible, but when it cannot be honorably avoided, we accept it as a gift from God. And a gift it truly is, because it draws us closer to Him and makes us more like Him. I’ve thought for a long time, that the worst things happen to the best people. God bestows his graces on those who are disposed to receive them. We should not fear suffering, far from it; in fact, we should embrace our crosses the way Jesus embraced His. Be not afraid!

  • stbosco

    Our suffering doesnt get us into heaven. We suffer because we are not above the master; if he suffered, we will suffer. Jesus did all the suffering for our salvation. Now our sins are forgiven. Its funny how some people still think more has to be done. I guess they just dont believe the bible. Not surprising. Most people dont believe one word of the bible. Stay cool everyone

  • stbosco – it certainly is troubling when people don’t believe the Bible, or select only certain portions of it. That’s why I thought it was important to shine a bit more light on Colossians 1:24, “in MY FLESH I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His Body, that is, the Church.” Don’t you find that the idea that “Jesus did it all, [so I don’t have to],” which is so prevalent, actually belittles God, fails to acknowledge the power of His Grace?
    It’s funny how we committed Christians can overlook not just Colossians 1:24, but Philippians 2:12-13, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure;” and Ephesians 2:10, “for we are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Yes, it’s that mystery of the Vine and the branches (John 15) – that Jesus is LIVING in and OFFERING HIMSELF TO THE FATHER through us! The Life originates in Jesus, but HAS TO BE actualized in us. As James tells us, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder…As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:19,26).
    I’m glad my brother, that you are so committed to the Word – and the Word in its entirety. I trust that both of us aspire to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves]” (James 1:22). And by the Grace of God we will!

  • Mary Kochan

    I find it interesting when someone presents a straw man argument. It makes me wonder if the person is honest enough to engage what is really being said. If we Catholics believed that it is our suffering that gets us to heaven, then saying that our suffering does not get us to heaven would make sense, instead what we have here is somebody who likes to make up what we believe and then argue with his made up version. Why would somebody do that?

    We believe that we are saved by grace, but we have to cooperate with that grace. Our cooperation may take the form of suffering — it often does. But our suffering is not without meaning IN CHRIST. And as Shane pointed out — the Scriptures give us that meaning. Here is a little essay on how it is that God does it all, but we still have a real role:

  • stbosco

    Im not sure what this straw man thing is. I just wanted to interject that our suffering does not contribute to our salvation. In India some clowns ride around on a bed of nails to show they are suffering for being unworthy. Some western religions have notions of suffering to clense themselves to be rite with god. Paul mentioned that he suffered for the sake of the church, the body of believers. But his salvation was already secure. Its secure when you are born again. Then the attacks from the devil start up afresh. Purgatory is a prime example. This flies in the face of Jesus sacrifice. He said..It is finished. But some people are taught that it is not. Well, i was unsaved at one time and believed allsorts of madness. Stay cool everyone

  • stbosco – I think Mary and I have spoken quite plainly, even shown you passages of Scripture that your viewpoint flatly contradicts. I’ve seen you do the same thing at Dave Armstrong’s site. I think I know how Jesus must have felt speaking to the Pharisees – people who insisted they saw quite clearly, when in fact they were denying the evidence Jesus placed before their eyes (John 9:41). At a certain point, the Master counsels us to let you be (Lk.9:5). May the grace of God open your heart to the full Truth, the full reality, He wants you to live in.

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  • Greetings, Apostle. 🙂 Keep up the good Work!

  • Keep going and don’t give up!