Sharing In Christ’s Sufferings:I Peter 4:12-19


Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when His glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God? “And if the righteous one is barely saved, where will the godless and the sinner appear?” As a result, those who suffer in accord with God’s will hand their souls over to a faithful Creator as they do good.

 Why are we surprised when we (as Christians) suffer? Are we really that ignorant of the sacred Scriptures (Jas. 1:2-3, Phil. 3:10, Col. 1:24, Jn. 15:18-20)? Or do we avoid these texts altogether, hoping that God will forget these parts if we over emphasize the “Sabbath rest” and the “abundant life” passages?

Could this be the reason that the gospel that is being preached in the 21st century is seemingly so weak and ineffective; this lack of mentioning suffering? Yet, if we look closely at the book of the Acts of the Apostles, it reveals to us the  power of the first century Church in Jerusalem. The Holy Spirit, to be sure, but we also see the suffering, persecution and even God’s judgement upon it’s members, as a means to effective growth, ministry and maturity. Are we not called to share in the sufferings of Christ? Peter reminds us we are!

This should also call to mind, Jesus’ sermon on the mount in Matt. 5:10-12 (or His sermon on the plain in Luke 6:22-23). As a disciple of Christ, I would not be preaching the “true”gospel, if that gospel does not mention suffering. As the Church teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraphs 1505 and 1508:

Moved by so much suffering Christ not only allows himself to be touched by the sick, but he makes their miseries his own: “He took our infirmities and bore our diseases.” But he did not heal all the sick. His healings were signs of the coming of the Kingdom of God. They announced a more radical healing: the victory over sin and death through his Passover. On the cross Christ took upon himself the whole weight of evil and took away the “sin of the world,” of which illness is only a consequence. By his passion and death on the cross Christ has given a new meaning to suffering: it can henceforth configure us to him and unite us with his redemptive Passion.

The Holy Spirit gives to some a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord. But even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses. Thus St. Paul must learn from the Lord that “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” and that the sufferings to be endured can mean that “in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his Body, that is, the Church.”

 Yet Peter says to suffer as a Christian, not as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as an intriguer. There is no shame in suffering for righteousness on account of Christ, but there is shame in suffering for that which is unrighteous – for that which goes against Christ. All suffering may not be the result of good Christian conduct. It could be the result of our own selfish and/or evil desires. It could also be the result of the “curse” of the “fall”; but it is always intended to bring us toward redemption. Again in paragraphs 517 and518 of the CCC, it states:

Christ’s whole life is a mystery of redemption. Redemption comes to us above all through the blood of his cross, but this mystery is at work throughout Christ’s entire life:
  • already in his Incarnation through which by becoming poor he enriches us with his poverty;
  • in his hidden life which by his submission atones for our disobedience;
  • in his word which purifies its hearers;
  • in his healings and exorcisms by which “he took our infirmities and bore our diseases”;
  • and in his Resurrection by which he justifies us.

 Christ’s whole life is a mystery of recapitulation. All Jesus did, said, and suffered had for its aim restoring fallen man to his original vocation:
 When Christ became incarnate and was made man, he recapitulated in himself the long history of mankind and procured for us a ‘short cut’ to salvation, so that what we had lost in Adam, that is, being in the image and likeness of God, we might recover in Christ Jesus.For this reason Christ experienced all the stages of life, thereby giving communion with God to all men.

Suffering is a powerful tool that God uses to “conform us to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29) yet we must be willing to walk the way of the cross. As Jesus Himself said “…and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me,” (Matt. 10:38). Nothing said suffering and death in first century Palestine, quite like a cross.

Now, what exactly does Peter mean by it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God? Could he have been thinking back on his experience with Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) knowing that lying to the Holy Spirit, as well as to the members of the Christian community, brings about His sure and swift judgement? Maybe so, for Peter knows that if God judges His household [Church] by such a measure of judgement, how will it end for those who fail to obey the gospel of God?

The writer of Hebrews puts it this way, It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (10:31). Peter also quotes from Proverbs 11:31 and consoles us with the promise that when we  suffer in accord with God’s will we hand our souls over to a faithful Creator.

So this week, let us rejoice when we suffer knowing that Christ suffered in love for our redemption. Glorify God when we suffer and continue to obey His commands, for He is a “faithful Creator” to whom we have entrusted our souls.

I also would like to close with a quote from Father Benedict Groeschel, who says before praying the Sorrowful Mysteries of the most Holy Rosary, “Whenever good comes into contact with evil – there is suffering.” It helps me to remember that!

Amen.

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2 Responses

  1. That quote from Fr. Groschel is one I’ll write down for sure. Thanks for remindng me of some of the truths about suffering. I have much to learn in this area. I read about “redemptive suffering” the other day when I was reading about one of the saints. Need to learn more about this.

    Have a great weekend.
    Amy

  2. I still have much to learn about it too, Amy. Thank you and you all have a great weekend as well!

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