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WHAT IS LACKING IN THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST?

Father Francis's picture
Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time

Col. 1:24-2:3 & Luke 6: 6-11

When Christ died on the Cross for us His sacrifice for the salvation of the world was complete and perfect. He need never suffer or die again in order to save us.

So how do we understand Saint Paul when he says that he is suffering to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of His body, the Church? ls he suggesting that Christ’s sacrifice was insufficient? Certainly not! He is talking about the mystical body of Christ; Christ the Head and we the body. Christ is perfect. Now in Heaven, He suffers no more. But His Church is imperfect and still has to seek perfection through suffering. St Paul was working hard and struggling to preach the Gospel and make Christ known to the world.

If Christ's sacrifice was perfect, what is it that He has still to undergo? He has won salvation for each one of us, but what is still necessary is our co-operation. Christ asks us to co-operate with Him so that we can obtain the rewards He has already won for us. It is as if He has cooked a wonderful meal for us, and we have to accept the invitation and eat it. There is nothing lacking in the meal but what is the point of preparing it if no-one wants to eat?

Like St Paul we must accept suffering as part of our Christian vocation. We have to struggle to live up to Christ’s ideals and follow His teaching. By persevering in our vocation, in spite of all difficulties, we are helping in a small way to bring about the perfection of Christ's body, the Church. So we should never think of suffering for Christ as a waste. We are sharing in His work.

The Pharisees and scribes should have been in the synagogue to worship God but, as usual, their main purpose was to scrutinise Jesus to see if He would break their laws on the Sabbath. There in the synagogue, in today's Gospel, was a man with a withered hand. Their interpretation of the law allowed medical intervention on the Sabbath only for birth, circumcision and mortal illness. The man was not dying and so, according to them, Jesus was clearly violating the Sabbath rest if He cured him.

In Jesus’ scheme of things anything that left a neighbour in suffering did not honour God but actually dishonoured Him and God is meant to be honoured on the Sabbath. The man was healed. That should have been enough for everyone present to say, 'May God be praised!' but instead the scribes and Pharisees were furious because their petty Sabbath laws had been broken.

Do we live our lives in ways that always honour God and our neighbour?

Lord Jesus, may we live like You lives full of love and compassion for all we see, especially for the people we know who are suffering in any way.

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