I have been thinking about suffering and its meaning, and planning to write a long post on the subject, inspired in part by Spe Salvi and Salvifici Doloris.
For now, I would like to share a thought that I hope will be of some comfort to friends of mine who are suffering, some of whom I have mentioned on this blog, and some of whom I have not.
In Eden, when man consented for sin to enter him, it opened up a wound that he could not heal himself. The evil of the sin poured in, like a poison, while man's God-given graces drained out, like the blood drained from animals in the ancient Jewish temple sacrifices.
Since his sin severed his integral bond with his Lord, man was left with no principle of return within himself, no route through which he could offer the graces he was losing back to his Maker so that he might be restored and re-created.
In the the time of His Passion, when Jesus consented for sin to pierce Him, it opened up a wound that He chose not to heal. The evil of the sin could not enter His soul as it did man's, but He allowed it to physically cut through His Sacred Heart. As it did, because Jesus is both human and divine, giving His flesh "for the life of the world," out of His wounds flowed not only His human blood, but His healing graces, even His very own divine life. He chose to receive His wounds as the means by which He would diffuse His goodness to the world.
So our wounds, which our sins created, become through Jesus' grace the means by which He would enter into us, healing us and making us part of His Mystical Body. This is what it means to be healed by His stripes.
Suffering, then, has a purpose, has meaning.
Everybody suffers from separation from God, but not everyone is blessed with awareness of the true nature of their suffering, because we are likely to attribute our pain simply to our not getting what we want—our lack of good health, lack of a job, lack of a friend or spouse.
Because Christ allowed Himself to be wounded for our sake, we who suffer—regardless of whether our suffering originates in our own sin, those of others, or the effects of a fallen world—can unite ourselves to Him more deeply by recognizing our own wounds and inviting Him to enter them.
So, there are wounds that lead to death, and wounds that leads to life.
That is why it is so sad when people do anything they can to distract themselves from any awareness of suffering.
Certainly, pain is bad; it is a result of the Fall. But building one's life around avoiding it, numbing oneself mentally or physically to the point of invulnerabillity, shuts out not only pain, but Love.
Inside every hurt is an opening for Christ. Don't miss the opportunity to let Him in.