Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If you want to follow me, deny yourself. Take up your cross and follow me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life, for my sake, will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world, if he destroys his soul? Or what can a person give, in exchange for his life?
Know, that the Son of Man will come, in the glory of his Father with the holy angels, and he will reward each one according to his deeds. Truly, I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death, before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”
On the topic of suffering, it is easy to become confused. On the one hand, everything nowadays is geared towards making our lives easier with pre-cooked meals, time-saving devices, machines doing our work for us, etc. When we listen to the mass media, we get the impression that suffering is bad and must be avoided at all costs. On the other hand, we hear Jesus telling us in today’s gospel reading that we have to deny ourselves and take up our cross. Is Jesus glorifying suffering? Are Christians masochists?
The answer to this apparent dilemma is simple: there are two kinds of suffering (like two kinds of cholesterol, of fat, etc.,), a good kind and a bad kind, or the necessary and the unnecessary. The unnecessary suffering is the one that I impose on others through my selfishness or that I bring upon myself through my neglect, my excesses. The necessary suffering is the one involved in growing up, in facing my limitations, in giving up a harmful habit, in helping others, etc. Jesus teaches us to fight the unnecessary suffering by feeding the hungry, visiting the lonely, etc. (cf. the Last Judgment in Mt 25:31-46) and to embrace the necessary suffering. His is a recipe for happiness.
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