Thursday in the Octave of Easter
Both of today’s readings speak of suffering. If there is any trait that sets Christianity against modernity is its acceptance and toleration of some aspects of suffering. Edward Gibbon, in his famous work on the rise and fall of Rome set the trend when he identified in Christianity as a destabilizing influence with its otherworldly glance and its toleration for “patience and pusillanimity.” Later Enlightenment Philosophers continued the ridicule and the trend certainly was found in Marx who heaped scorn on Christianity’s acceptance of suffering and its glance towards heaven instead of resolving conflict and working towards the proletariat paradise in Minsk. Today, even the mild forms of presumed suffering such as wrinkles and ugly kitchen cabinets are objects of restoration and reform. Airline adds tout larger (and more expensive seats) with the implicit suggestion that coach and the suffering entailed in a cramped seat is for the common class.
The mystery of suffering in our lives resounds in the age-old question echoed by Job when he asks “why do the wicked prosper?” Aquinas takes a stab at the question, as to others, but at the end of the day philosophic reasoning just doesn’t resolve the question. Faith provides us with some light, the idea that suffering is transformative, as it transformed Christ. Of course the challenge is always present as to what suffering is transformative and when does suffering need to be transformed. Here wisdom is needed and we recall the prayer for serenity in which we pray to understand which things we can change and those we cannot. For those we cannot, we give them to God who we believe turns the wounds of his Son’s heart into a place where we can put our own hearts and own wounds.