An Easter Blessing born from the Suffering of Lent
Apr 19, 2022
Stephen J. Loughlin, President
This has been a most difficult Lent, not only from my perspective but particularly from the accounts offered by my friends, family, and colleagues. The narratives that we spin do not importantly rest upon the troubles that have beset our nations of late. Instead, we rehearse not only the increasing difficulties involved in the Christian vocations to which we have been called, but also the personal hardships that we experience in our desire to know and love God all the more.
My wife and I sometimes lament that after a lifetime of suffering, progress should have been made by now, and that the difficulties of this Lent (or more broadly of the Christian walk) should have become somewhat easier in our maturity, when in fact the opposite is more to the point. At the most difficult of times, we often jest with each other, declaring that we can almost see, with our own eyes, the increase of the character of the other. In the end we console ourselves with the words that our Savior offers at John 12:24, namely that “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
In light of such, we straighten ourselves and look upon Him from Whom our salvation comes. We draw our gaze from our earthly and temporal cares and place them solidly upon eternal things, abandoning ourselves yet once again to the blessed task of incarnating God’s love in all that we say and do. Indeed, this way is both a yoke and a burden, but one that is so much lighter than that which the world presents to us as worthy of a life’s dedication, something that fails each and every time it is taken up.
To practice gratitude in the face of such troubles, especially during this past Lent, is not something easily enacted. Many of us have prayed, in imitation of the saints, for that special grace that would allow us to embrace our adversities with charity, grace, and thanksgiving. And so it is that we progress year by year in this way. We hope for relief as we age but grow in the awareness that this will not be and that very likely we will not be released from this until after our final breath. We draw ourselves up as old hoary warriors before the fray and with faces set like flint, we re-engage the foe.
In the midst, however, of the battles of this Lent, something new has dawned upon our sight, something somewhat unexpected. In the difficulties presented by our Christian lives, in the necessity of the vocations we pursue, and in the weighty responsibilities that fall to us to discharge in all love and dedication, we have realized that these matters only disturb and distress us by reason of the exalted position to which we have been called as children of God made to His own image and likeness. In this light, the sufferings and the battles of the Christian life are to be seen not as something simply to be endured in some Stoic fashion, but rather as they are proper to our very nature and status, something to which we, in our nobility, have been called.
Unlike the warriors of old, the Christian understands that there is more than the virtue of courage to be developed in a lifetime of battle with the foe. This is a work to which all Christians are called, a work that is proper to us and not simply reserved to the warrior class. We are called, in the words of St. Paul, to be “without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation” (Philippians 2:15) among whom we shine like lights in the world, as we hold on to the word of life. Thus our lives and our sufferings are not without purpose.
We pour ourselves out as a libation on behalf of the work of God, and this not simply as servants but as friends. There is no divine condescension here in His call to us to engage upon His work. Rather, there is the call to embrace the consequence of being a son or a daughter of God, a friend to Him, made to His image and likeness. In this reality so clearly born out of our pain and suffering, we fall to our knees before the God of all creation in love, reverence, and thanksgiving for making us to be what we are, and in light of which we take up our full and proper posture before each other, manifesting in our lives, work, vocations, and sufferings “the will of God, what is good, pleasing, and perfect” (Romans 12:2).
Our work, then, at the very least is one of the antidotes to the bleakness and the disease of our age. In the blessings of this Easter born out of the sufferings of this Lent, may we realize our full status as Christians and manifest in our lives and our work the reality and nobility of being human.