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Joy and Suffering

In this Sunday's reading from Colossians, Paul exclaims: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake."

I have been reading these past days Sidney Callahan's richly evocative and deeply personal new book, Created for Joy: A Christian View of Suffering. Her reflections help illuminate the Pauline passage:

Living in, with, and through Christ, makes it possible to become transformed and to transform the world. Love produces healing, joy, and gladness as fruits of the Christian life -- even while recognizing the full horror of intractable sufferings. Jesus suffers with us and we suffer with him as we participate in his saving work. At the same time, Jesus rejoices, and we receive the gift of joy. Gladly celebrating the resurrection gives proof of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Joy, empathy, and love for those who suffer inspire ceaseless labor to end suffering. The double commands of Christ are given clearly: "take up your cross," and "rejoice without ceasing."

About the Author

Rev. Robert P. Imbelli, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College.

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As I heard this proclaimed at mass this evening, I thought of one of the colorful little anecdotes in "Fioretti di San Francesco." For further illumination:Because St. Francis and his companions were called and chosen by God to bear in their hearts, in their works, and with their words the cross of Christ, they seemed to be and were crucified, in their actions and in their austerity; and they therefore desired more to endure shame and insults out of love of Christ than to obtain worldly honor or fame or human respect. In fact, they rejoiced in abuse and were saddened by honors, and thus they went through the world as pilgrims and strangers, taking with them only Christ crucified. they were the true branches of the true vine that is Christ, and they brough forth good fruit from the souls that they won over to God."Hopefully the wonderful soul who put the "Fioretti" together for us realized that along with St. Francis and his companions, he too was called to rejoice in suffering for the sake of Christ!

The last time I looked this passage up, I made the mistake of looking in 2 Corinthians, because it is so characteristic of his reasoning in that letter. -What is my authentication?-You, Corinthians. You and my labors for the Gospel, beatings and shipwrecks, etc.

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