Most of us are familiar with verse twenty-four of the first chapter of St. Paul's Letter to the Collosians in which he states that he is rejoicing in the sufferings that he has been enduring. Similar sentiments are expressed by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles as the apostles begin their preaching ministry after Jesus returned to God after the resurrection. On several occasions, the apostles were hauled before the Sanhedrin and charged with the mandate to cease teaching in the name of Jesus. Because they refused, they were flogged, jailed, and harassed by the Jewish and Roman authorities. St. Luke goes to great pains to show that the apostles are being treated much the same way that Jesus was treated in his trial, passion, and death.
The apostles count themselves blessed to have been found worthy to suffer as Jesus suffered. It is, for them, a cause for joy. Coming on the heels of their desertion of Jesus in his hour of need, the apostles now realize that they can atone for their former actions by living out the command to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Their sorrow is turned to joy.
"If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few." Thus wrote St. Theresa of Avila speaking of God. I am sure that such thoughts cross all of our minds from time to time. Suffering pain, disillusionment, frustration, abandonment, or any of a myriad of other difficult emotions is not easy. Of course, no one ever said it would be. However, if the Acts of the Apostles is to be believed, we can find in it a source of joy.
Many are suffering today because of the threat of coronavirus. Tens of thousands have died. Thousands more will follow. Even those who are asymptomatic are suffering because of the general order to shelter in place. Whether our suffering is physical, economic, or simply that of boredom and frustration, we can, like the apostles, find some joy in the cross we are all bearing at this time. Jesus suffered for us; we are called to follow in his footsteps.
Thus it is that they can rejoice in their suffering, for it means that they are following in the footsteps of Jesus. We can choose to look at our own difficulties in a similar light. In this world, bad things seem to happen to good people while good things seem to happen to bad men and women. It is the way of the world. This is just another reason to consider ourselves citizens of another world.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator