I received a short note today from someone who is struggling. In a previous note I learned that she struggles with an illness of the mind. She is able to do some volunteer work and to participate in some activities at her parish, but she still feels useless because she does not have a job and receives disability checks. She wrote: "I always feel like I'm not good enough and God is mad at me." I wrote back and shared with her a favorite but often overlooked quote from the Documents of the Second Vatican Council.
On December 8, 1965, at the close of the Council, Pope Paul VI delivered Messages from the Bishops to various groups. One of them was addressed "To the Poor, the Sick, and the Suffering," and it speaks to a common temptation--thinking that suffering is a sign that God is "mad" at you. On the contrary, the Bishops said that people who suffer are not being punished by God, nor are they abandoned by Him. The Bishops called them "the preferred children of the kingdom of God," and stated emphatically, "you are not alone, separated, abandoned or useless." Why? Because, as the Council Fathers said, "You are the brothers of the suffering Christ, and with Him, if you wish, you are saving the world."
When our sufferings are united to the Cross, they play a part in the salvation of the world. When our sufferings are offered up with Christ in His perfect sacrifice at Mass, they "are saving the world." At one time or another suffering is inevitable. It's part of life. But we do have a choice in regards to what we do with the suffering. If we wish, we can use it, as members of the Body of Christ, to carry on the work of Jesus, the Head of the Body. We can, as St. Paul wrote, fill up "what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ" (Colossians 1: 24). We can help save the world.