No Pain, No Gain; No Cross, No Crown

Word Alive–Fr. Bel San Luis, SVD September 12, 2021 / 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

A lot of love stories end with the words: “And they lived happily ever after.” Is that really true? There’s a young man who got married expecting to get lasting marital bliss.

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After a couple of years, he was asked by the priest who solemnized his wedding how things were getting along. He replied, “Father, I’ve found out there are three rings in marriage– engagement ring, wedding ring, suffe-RING.”

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The subject of this Sunday’s gospel is about suffering. Jesus Christ said: “The Son of Man is going up to Jerusalem and would suffer grievously and be put to death” (Mk 8,31). Peter recoiled at the thought, remonstrating, “Heaven forbid, Lord. This must never happen to you.”

Jesus exploded with a violence rarely seen of him: “Get out of my sight, you Satan! You are a stumbling block to my path.” Imagine Jesus calling Peter “Satan”?

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Jesus summarized Peter’s whole problem in one sentence: “You are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s.” Man’s standards say, “Be comfortable; seek security; enjoy life.” How different are God’s standards! God shows in Jesus that real happiness and fulfilment come through suffering. As the truism puts it, “No guts, no glory; no pain, no gain; no cross, no crown.”

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In his book The Secret of Happiness, the author D. Prager says, “Things that lead to happiness involve some pain like professional achievement, religious commitment, civic or charitable work, self improvement.”

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There are, however, sufferings that are inevitable or part and parcel of human life in this earthly “valley of tears.”

Think of the countless victims of calamities like the recent monsoon rains and typhoons like Jolina and Kiko. Or, the young and old ravaged by wasting diseases like cancer, renal failure, cardiovascular ailments, and during this time, the devastating Covid-19 pandemic.

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There are emotional and mental sicknesses like loneliness, boredom, depression. A man told his friend, “I’m a walking economy during this pandemic time. My hairline is in recession because of worry, my stomach is in state of inflation, and these two cause me depression.” The friend replied, “In my case, my assets were frozen, then liquidated, finally evaporated!”

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If we have crosses to carry or have problems, what’s the Christian attitude? By all means, we should remedy them. For example in this pandemic time, let us follow health protocols like wearing face mask and obeying social distancing. As somebody said, “Better two meters socially distanced than 6 feet below the ground.”

Another way of protection is vaccination. It’s been proven effective worldwide.

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If, however, our problems, pains, and sufferings cannot be remedied despite our best efforts, then let’s pray for serenity and accept the will of God.

A friend, whose very loving, caring, and devoted wife died at age 60. He could not accept her tragic death. He was so distressed that he thought life had no more meaning, and even thought of ending it.

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I consoled him and said, “Jesus Christ didn’t want to suffer, too. While praying at the Garden of Gethsemane, he implored, “Father, take this cup of suffering away from me.” Did he get his wish? No. Jesus could only say, “Father, not my will but your WILL BE DONE.” My friend reflected on that and later felt a relief, and kept saying like a mantra, “Yes, Lord, your will be done.”

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Just as the cross of Christ was redemptive, so also our crosses, hardships and trials are our instrument of salvation. Let us offer our sufferings with Christ so they will not be wasted but redemptive and meritorious.

As St. Paul said: “If we suffer and die with Christ, then we will also rise in his glorious resurrection.”

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THE LIGHTER SIDE. A struggling preacher received a note from a parishioner which said: “I listened to your homily on suffering last Sunday. I just wanted you to know that I didn’t know what suffering was until I heard you preach.”

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Marriage Stages in Hymns: Newly-married woman—“Papuri sa Diyos.” After 10 years of suffering—“Panginoon, maawa ka sa akin.” After 20 years—“Kunin mo, O Dios.”

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