Thursday, September 30, 2010


Fr. Dale Matson
“[we are] always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Cor. 4:10-11, NASB).
I have enjoyed a life a relatively good health and never taken this for granted. Since my ordination as a priest last January, my health has taken quite a downturn. I realize that I am not a spring chicken, as I write this on my sixty sixth birthday (The Feast Day of Michael and All Angels). There is even a bit of “survivor guilt” when I read the obituaries and see the passing of so many who are younger than me.
There has been a series of uncommon and unanticipated health issues since January. There have also been aches that seem incessant and systemic. This is the stuff that could fill up my prayers of petition. I have sought the Lord on this with no answer but continually feel that I am being intentionally pressed down and poured out. I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s private writings where suffering seems to be the central theme in her life. She said at one point that she wanted to drink from the cup of Christ’s suffering to the last drop.
This is not something that I have sought for myself but know that those who preach the Gospel will suffer. We would however, suffer even worse torment if we did not preach what we have been called by God to preach. “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God.” (2 Timothy 1:8).
There are other signs such as the spring on our garage door breaking as we were getting ready to back out to preach one Sunday or my wife falling over the dog’s leash and cutting her chin severely enough before church for four stitches following my preaching on another Sunday. There is definitely an element of spiritual warfare but the physical suffering is something that I have not come to a full understanding about. Mother Teresa was able to fully grasp the extent of her suffering through a verse from St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians. “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions.” (1:24).
It is my hope that if this is a suffering that Christ has called me to, that He will help me to understand better why this must be. If it is not abated I hope there will be more of Him and less of me. I can understand why St. Paul could say, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.” (Philippians 1:21-24). I also know the difference between training soreness and injury pain and just plain aching all the time. I’m not calling myself a Padre Pio or a Mother Teresa but do understand better now how they participated in the suffering of Christ. I believe that suffering is not always the wages of sin. Sometimes it is through proclaiming the Gospel that we have “earned” a holy suffering.

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