The reality of suffering is ever before our eyes and often in the body, soul, and heart of each of us. Pain has always been a great riddle of human existence. However, ever since Jesus redeemed the world by His passion and death, a new perspective has been opened: Through suffering, one can grow in self-giving and attain the highest degree of love because of Him who “loved us and gave himself up for us.” As a sharing in the mystery of the Cross, suffering can now be accepted and lived as a cooperation in Christ’s saving mission.

In the Cross, the “Gospel of suffering” has been revealed to Christians. Jesus recognized in His sacrifice the way established by the Father for the redemption of humanity, and He followed this way. He also told His disciples that they would be associated with this sacrifice: “Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice.”

This prediction, however, is not the only one, nor is it the final word because it is completed by the announcement that their pain will be changed into joy: “You will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.” Christ’s passion is oriented toward the Resurrection. Human beings are thus associated with the mystery of the Cross in order to share joyfully in the mystery of the Resurrection.

For this reason, Jesus did not hesitate to proclaim the blessedness of those who suffer: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”

This blessedness can only be understood if one admits that human life is not limited to our time spent on earth, but is wholly directed to perfect joy and fullness of life in the hereafter. Earthly suffering, when accepted in love, is like a bitter kernel containing the seed of new life, the treasure of divine glory to be given humanity in eternity. Although the sight of a world burdened with evil and misfortune of every sort is often so wretched, nevertheless the hope of a better world of love and grace is hidden within it. It is this hope that is nourished by Christ’s promise.


Even if we do not have at our disposal riches and concrete capacities to meet the needs of our neighbor, we can at least open our hearts to their necessities and relieve them of their suffering as far as possible. Remember the widow’s mite; she threw into the treasury of the temple only two small coins, but with them all her great love: “But she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Above all, it is the interior value of our giving that counts: the readiness to share everything, the readiness to give oneself. St. Paul wrote: “If I give away all my possessions, … but do not have love, I gain nothing.” St. Augustine also writes: “If you stretch out your hand to give, but have not mercy in your heart, you have not done anything; but if you have mercy in your heart, even when you have nothing to give with your hand, God accepts your alms.”

Continue to “On Christian Vocation and Working in the World” or see the full list of excerpts. (Note: link will be updated when I post the next in the series.)

from Go In Peace, by John Paul II