24. APOSTOLATE OF SUFFERING
There are Exercises of conversion, as when the person who took the wrong path wants to turn back, in order to return to the right one.
There are Exercises of progress and perfection, as when the person that is already doing well and making progress in the way of God, wants to follow this way more promptly.
There are Eucharistic Exercises, which are made to en-lighten the person regarding faith in the Eucharist, to bring him/her to the imitation of the Eucharistic Jesus, to be led and be united intimately to him, the Sacred Host present in the Tabernacle. St. Paul said: Vivo ego, iam non ego, vivit vero in me Christus1 (The life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me). The Pious Disciple says: Jesus Host lives in me.
The Exercises for the religious in general and especially for the novices go well on the consideration of Jesus, religious of the Father, Jesus light, model, reward of the religious. Thus, there are courses of Exercises on humility, on religious vows: obedience that unites the will to that of Jesus, always submissive to the Father;1 poverty that makes the person enter the grotto of Bethlehem and follow Jesus in his life, up to the point of living with him in the poverty of the cross. Jesus had no pillow, nor a drop of water, nor a way to move about for a more comfortable position. How far we are from the poverty of Jesus!
When it is said that 'we are similar to Jesus,' the fear of committing a sacrilege nearly comes to us. No, we are not capable to bear a little suffering.
Apostolate of suffering. It is to suffer with Jesus, with the purpose of saving souls. Everyone carries the cross here on earth.1 There is someone who carries it by dragging, another who cuts a piece to make it lighter, somebody who lifts it up to show it to all. There is the one who carries it with Jesus. Here's to get oneself to do.
Baptism makes up for Adam's sin, but it does not give us back all the gifts that sin had deprived us. Therefore, sufferings and pains all together remain on earth, which prepare us for the greatest sorrow: death.
All people suffer: physical pains, sickness, misunder-standings, ingratitude, uncertainties, doubts, discouragements, moral sufferings. Others have spiritual sufferings: bad inclinations, temptations, scruples, aridity, desolations.
The whole life of Christ was a martyrdom.1 Thus, the whole life of the Christian must be crucified with that of Christ.
We cannot pretend to be Jesus' friends and pass through another way. If we are to take another road, we will not encounter Jesus anymore.
Adspicientes in auctorem fidei et consummatorem Iesum, qui, proposito sibi gaudio, sustinuit crucem, confusione contempta, atque in dextera (sedis) Dei sedet.2 (Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who inspires and perfects our faith. For the sake of the joy which lay before him he endured the cross, heedless of its shame. He has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God).
If we intend to have days without sufferings, a life without sacrifice, then, we are not similar to Jesus. Those in whom Jesus shall find his cross imprinted, shall be saved. St. Paul said: I preach Jesus and Jesus Christ crucified.3
What a difference between Jesus and us! He was in thirst of suffering, he desired its hour, whereas, we are afraid of the hour of pain and we run away from it.
Listen to the word of the Divine Master: If a man wishes to come after me, he must deny his very self, take up his cross and follow in my steps.4
Do we want to be true disciples of Jesus? Let us follow him on the royal way of the holy cross, that is:
1. Let us deny ourselves. Renounce one's own inclinations, preferences, tastes, will, a cherished work, a desired place. In order to live well, we have always to renounce evil and say no to the tendencies of the flesh, which has desires contrary to the spirit.1 To renounce looking at that which should not be seen, hearing that which should not be listenend to; always to deny oneself of the food, of rest. There is no time of the day, in which we are not visited by the cross.
Someone asked Jesus: Of what thing must I deny myself? Semper et in omnibus was the reply. Always and in all things.
Is the Host that you want to receive not the same Sacrifice? Host means victim.
2. Let us take up the cross. Jesus gives us as many crosses as established in his designs. Since the cross is life, it sanctifies us. In quo est salus et vita1 (for it is life and salvation). He gives us as many as necessary, to make reparation for our sins before death, to sanctify ourselves, to save many other souls and to become similar to him.
St. Paul says: I have been crucified with Christ;2 I bear the brand marks of Jesus in my body.3
You go to sleep on a comfortable bed, whereas Jesus placed himself on the straw, on the cross. He was born to suffer and became man in order to die.
Are you humiliated, do you have sufferings, interior struggles which you cannot tell to anybody? Do you have health discomforts: weakening eyesight, as well as hearing? It is the sign that death is approaching. Do you experience repugnance? Jesus himself experienced such repugnance: Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me, yet not my will but yours be done.4
3. Let us follow Jesus. I am not talking of that which the simple Christians must do, but of that which the apostle of suffering must do. It is written of Jesus: Iniquitates nostras Ipse tulit,1 (ours were the sufferings he bore). He became the apostle of suffering, taking to himself all our iniquities so as to save us. Mortify yourself, too, so that vocations may increase, so that the Church may be extended.
Somebody may say that she does the apostolate of the press, of the editions, liturgical apostolate and does it rightly. But what is the vital force that assures it? Let us see if this person loves suffering, if she is capable to suffer. If she loves pain, there's no doubt of her love of the apostolate and its proper accomplishment. This is the character, the touchstone; this shows the heart of a true apostle.
Rejoice if you are suffering of something, the rest could leave you in doubt.
Up to where have you reached in suffering? Do you know how to bear something unknowingly to everybody? Do you know how to hide your interior sufferings from others?
The apostolate of suffering is the most effective apostolate.
Jesus saved us with preaching, with miracles, but above all, he saved us with the cross. Quia per sanctam crucem et mortem tuam redemisti mundum1 (because by your holy cross and death, you have redeemed the world).
Soul, Jesus is in a hurry to reach the Passion. He is considered the rejected one of the people, the opprobrium of humanity; he has to die on the cross, the most abominable gallows.
How far-off you are from Jesus! Try to enter with him in the garden of Gethsemane, see how he accepts the chalice of the passion, the scourging, the insults, the crowning of thorns, death! Accompany Jesus to the courts, you who are afraid of being set aside, you who fear that your merits are not considered.
Follow Jesus in the second sorrowful mystery. He was judged and considered like a leper,2 unworthy to be in the civil society. He was scourged to the point of laying bare his bones. Accompany him in the crowning of thorns and see if your haughty, proud head, would bow.
Jesus goes to the execution like a meek lamb being led to the slaughter house. Iniquitates nostras Ipse portavit (ours the sorrows he carried). Barabbas was preferred rather than Jesus.3 What do you say, you who are much afraid of being subordinated? Nevertheless, Jesus does not complain. On the contrary, his face lights up at the sight of the desired cross. Try, O Soul, to accompany him on the way to Calvary. He carries the cross and is disposed to be crucified. Will you follow Jesus? He has many persons who sit with him at table, while very few are those who allow themselves to be crucified with him!
And here are the three hours of agony: Jesus does not think of his sufferings, but he worries of the sinners: Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing;4 he thinks of the
repentant thief: This day, you will be with me in Paradise;5 Sitio;6 I am thirsty; he thinks of leaving us a Mother, his Mother: Here is your Mother;7 he wants to glorify the Father, and finally, he voluntarily bows his head and dies.8
Appreciate the apostolate of suffering, the true way to redeem souls. Sine sanguine non fit remissio1 (if there is no shedding of blood, there is no remission). In union with Jesus.
Let us love the cross that the Heavenly Father sends us. He had given it first, to his beloved Son. Let us welcome it with apostolic aim: to save many souls through it.
Let us place ourselves under the protection of the cross and let us consider that we will be eucharistic persons indeed, if we will know how to live in union with Jesus Victim.
Vivit in me Christus Hostia! 2 Christ Host lives in me!
1 Gal. 2, 20.
1 Cf. Jn. 8, 29.
1 Cf. P.P. Parzanese, The cross, v.6.
1 Imitation of Christ, book II, chap. 12, n. 7.
2 Heb. 12, 2.
3 Cf. 1Cor. 1, 23.
4 Mk. 8, 34.
1 Cf. Gal. 5, 17.
1 Liber Usualis Missae et Officii, Ferial V in Cena Domini, ant. ad Introitum.
2 Gal. 2, 19.
3 Cf. Gal. 6, 17.
4 Lk. 22, 42.
1 Cf. Is. 53, 4.
1 Adaptation of the act of adoration found in Enchiridion Indulgentiarum, n. 191 (Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1952).
2 Cf. Is. 54, 7; 4.
3 Cf. Jn 18, 40.
4 Lk. 23, 34.
5 Lk. 23, 43.
6 Jn. 19, 28.
7 Jn. 19, 27.
8 Cf. Jn. 19, 30.
1 Heb. 9, 22: sine sanguinis effusione non fit remissio.
2 Cf. Gal. 2, 20: Vivit vero in me Christus.