Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
Today we celebrate two important events in the life of Christ. His triumphant entry as the Messiah to Jerusalem and his Passion. We all go through triumphs and sufferings, but suffering is something we have a hard time dealing with. It is very comforting to know that Jesus went through physical, mental and spiritual suffering ahead of us.
The suffering of Jesus, which we recall in a special way today, has been a source of strength to countless people throughout history. These people could never have endured their suffering without the knowledge that Jesus had suffered before them and was now supporting them in their hour of trial. As we look back over the suffering of Jesus, we see that he suffered in three different ways.
First, he suffered mentally. Jesus experienced this kind of suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. He sweat blood just thinking about the ordeal that lay before him. Jesus also suffered mental anguish when his followers betrayed and deserted him. All of us can relate to mental suffering. We’ve all experienced it. For example, a 15-year-old runaway was describing mental suffering when he said in an interview in Parade magazine: “I never had a real family. I never saw my real father. I’m always lonely…I feel like there must be something wrong with me…I must be bad. I feel like I don’t exist because nobody ever loved me.” In time of mental suffering, often the only comfort we have is the knowledge that Jesus suffered the same way before us and is now supporting us in our hour of trial.
Second, Jesus suffered physically. He was brutally beaten, crowned with thorns, and nailed to a cross. Again, we can all relate to physical pain. We’ve all experienced it, some more than others. Again, in time of physical suffering, often the only comfort we have is knowing that Jesus suffered the same way and is now supporting us in our hour of trial.
Finally, Jesus suffered spiritually. For example, as he hung helplessly on the cross, it seemed that even his Father had deserted him. He prayed, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46) Again, we can all relate to spiritual suffering. There have been times when all of us have felt abandoned by God. It’s the kind of suffering that an American priest, Walter Ciszek, endured in Russia, where he was imprisoned for 23 years. On one occasion he became so spiritually depressed that he was on the brink of total despair. But instead of giving up, he imitated Jesus on the cross and turned to God the Father in his hour of trial. He said: “I told God that my abilities were now bankrupt and he was my only hope… “Father, into your hands I comment my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) That one decision, he said later, enabled him to carry on and to survive.
And so Jesus suffered in all three ways that a human being can suffer. He suffered mentally, enduring the pain of betrayal. He suffered physically, enduring the pain of torture. Finally, he suffered spiritually, enduring the pain of abandonment. There’s a message here for all of us. When we find ourselves suffering in one of these ways, we should turn to Jesus. He knows how we feel, and he will not fail to strengthen us.
God Bless You,