Colossians 1:24 “I make up in my body what was lacking to the sufferings of Christ for the sake of His body…the Church”
Such were the words of St. Paul over two thousand years ago. Did you ever wonder if that was a blasphemous statement for him to make? Was he implying that something could possibly be lacking to all that Jesus suffered on our behalf? Well, at first glance and without a period of silent prayer following the reading of that statement, one might so conclude. But, with meditation, one might reflect more deeply (perhaps during a period of Lectio Divina), that the statement can yield a depth of meaning otherwise not so easily evident.
What can be lacking in the sufferings of the Christ that St. Paul, or any of us for that matter, might need to make up for? For me, that answer was and is, My Own Participation In those Sufferings. I can pray for the hungry every day and never have compassion for them until I know something of what it means to be hungry. I can give money to a charity without ever feeling their need or their lack until I know what it is to be in need. I can make a visit to a shut in without once having tasted the loneliness they must live with daily. I’m not saying these actions have no meaning. But I am saying that sometimes, for some, myself included, good actions were more of an ego boost to one’s self-esteem rather than true acts of kindness done from love of neighbor.
Until I knew disability, that person in a wheelchair was an object outside myself that I needed to take pity on “in their misfortune”. How dare I ? How…dare…I…? Until I knew suffering, suffering was a “thing” I could manage by an occasional “good deed” to ease my conscience. Isn’t that what it still is for some? Perhaps not the readers of this blog because you have come to understand from close-up how spiritually immature such an understanding is. And how ego-driven. This is not an attack, please don’t misunderstand. It is only meant to bring to light the shadow side we each have and are reluctant to own as part of ourselves. The sooner we can own it, the sooner God can pour His Mercy out upon us and transform our shadow side, healing the wounds that it concealed. I know It’s hard to look at ourselves as possessing one, but we all do. Yet we need never despair because Jesus already carried even those sins for us We need only believe and receive His healing!
But let me not get away from what I was leading to. God has said, “I am the Lord; there Is No Other”. Our neighbor is not “other” than ourselves. Seeing them as anything less than God’s children same as we are is to miss the mark.
What was lacking to the sufferings of Christ? Our Participation in it. We must both invite and allow Jesus to let us “see from within” that All suffering is Our suffering to share in. That the Cross of human kind is Our Collective Cross to bare.
As Lent draws to its end, let us be mindful that our penances can transform not only ourselves as individuals, but if we experience them as a Collective Sacrifice for the highest good of All people, they can help to transform suffering Everywhere.
May the Cross of Christ be a transformative one in all of our lives…AMEN.