Our ex Catholic friend in the combox criticizes Catholics for indulging in a theology of suffering.
Didn’t the Master say we must ‘take up our cross and follow him’ if we would be his disciple? Now what could that possibly mean except that we ought not only expect, but accept the suffering that comes to us? Would our critical friend like to quarrel with the verses that not only predict persecution and suffering but also tell us to “Rejoice when you are persecuted?”
What shall we make of St Paul saying that he “bears his body the marks of the suffering of the Lord.” Was he the first stigmatist? How about the curious remark of St Paul that ‘he completes through his sufferings the sufferings of the Lord.”? It would seem that St Paul not only took the Lord’s idea that he would have to ‘take up he cross seriously’ but he understood a profound truth, that as we take up our cross we somehow co-operate with the sufferings of Christ for the redemption of the world.
This is where the Catholic tradition of ‘offering up’ one’s suffering comes from. We believe that we too, in some profound and disturbing way, may join our sufferings with the greater redemptive suffering of our Lord himself.Dismiss it as negativity if you will, by all means buy into the ‘power of positive thinking’ but don’t imagine that such a worldly philosophy is Christianity. Imagining your suffering away is actually one of the tenets of a Protestant sect called Christian Science, and the idea that ‘If you only have enough faith you’ll be healed’ or ‘If you only believe enough your suffering will end’ is a false gospel that needs to be exposed for what it is.
Does this mean we disbelieve in Christian healing and that we pooh pooh all reports of miracles and marvels? Of course not. We believe firmly in miracles and marvelous healing. We pray that God will heal and we rejoice when he does, but along with this we realize that Jesus himself went through torture, suffering and death, and that he told us that if we want to be his disciple we should not expect to be spared.