GOOD NEWS: There is Joy in Suffering

Everyone wants to be happy. Everyone wants a piece of joy in their lives. But finding happiness or joy seems elusive because of the presence of suffering, which is perceived as the enemy or the obstacle in our pursuit of joy. Suffering is part of human existence from birth until death, and every human person suffers in a variety of ways: physically, psychologically, socially, and spiritually. Suffering in one form or another accompanies each of us every day. It is an inescapable feature of human existence and yet we have made it our goal to free the world from the clutches of suffering and pain. Just look at the ad that promotes a pain-free or stress-free whatsoever: painless dental extraction to painless circumcision; stress-free diet to stress-free loans; painless childbirth to painless embalming. Do you that the electric chair was invented to provide a painless death!

Joy is a pleasant subjective feeling. It belongs to the sentiments. The prevailing tone of joy manifests harmony, that is, a successful bringing together of the various expression of human life. Suffering is a generic term for everything that produces the feeling of pain.

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How suffering is a venue to be joyful? Joy and sufferings are two feelings that on the outside seems to really contradict one another. Could there really be joy in suffering? Thus, the experience of suffering naturally leads to questioning. Why do I suffer? Why do others suffer? Is there any meaning to suffering? In our society where sufferings of various forms are inevitable and commonly experienced, only few people find its value and meaning, and for them suffering brings them hope and positive disposition. Happiness is not the absence of suffering, but once it is offered and surrendered to God certainly one can obtain true joy and happiness despite the burden of suffering. However, this process works best in a culture of faith and love. So, how can we find joy and happiness even in the midst of suffering? It is by way of turning to God and offering to Him our suffering and thereby looking at suffering no longer as an enemy or obstacle but a positive reality that would even help us realize true happiness.

What the scripture says about joy in suffering? (a) The Beatitude: Happy are those who suffer persecution because of me. (b) The coming of Jesus brings in a time of joy. So much so that we must not overlooked that the whole NT message as a proclamation of God’s saving work in Christ is a message of Joy in the midst of a world immersed in evil and suffering. (c) Christ’s messianic or salvific mission is to overcome suffering (both temporal and definitive), as well as sin and death. Christ’s healing miracles are therefore part of his messianic activity. But above all Christ fulfilled his mission through his suffering and death and being truly God and truly human, his suffering was therefore truly human suffering. Salvation was accomplished because Christ did not run away from this intense suffering but instead through it all continued to love. Through the passion and death of Christ, human sin and human suffering have “entered into a completely new dimension and a new order. They have been “linked to love… to that love which created good, drawing it out by means of suffering.”

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In Salvifici Doloris, Pope John Paul II opens the reality of the Gospel of Suffering. He writes, the Gospel of Suffering “signifies… the revelation of the saving power and salvific significance of suffering in Christ’s messianic mission and subsequently in the mission and vocation of the church.” (#25) This involves firstly “suffering ‘for Christ'” – “persecutions” or “tribulations experienced because of Christ.” But it also involves “all those who suffer together with Christ, uniting their human sufferings to his salvific suffering.” (#26) Further on he also reminds us, like in the parable of the Good Samaritan that suffering “is also present to unleash love in the human person,” and that “the world of human suffering” should summon forth “the world of human love.” (#29). Here the Joy in suffering has become integral to message of gospel. The Gospel of suffering proclaims there is joy in suffering!

 

sources:

Beinert, Wolfgang and Fiorenza, Francis Schussler, Handbook of Catholic Theology, The Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, 1995.

Kaczor, Thomas,  A Pope’s Answer to the Problem of Pain,  http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/a-pope%E2%80%99s-answer-to-the-problem-of-pain. Downloaded Aug. 13, 2014

Mc Govern, Kevin, Finding meaning in serious illness and suffering, Issue 32, November 2010, http://www.nathaniel.org.nz/component/content/article/16-bioethical-issues/bioethics-at-the-end-of-life/216-finding-meaning-in-serious-illness-and-suffering, downloaded Aug. 13, 2014.

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Tanging Yaman

Introduction:

 Hightech gadgets? Mansyon o condominium? O mapormang luxury cars? Malaking pera sa bangko? Kasikatan?                 Maimpluwensyang posisyon?

Aminin man natin o hindi, ang mga bagay na ito ang sukatan ng materyal na mundo. Ito ang nagsasabi sa ating tayo ay mayamang mayaman. Hahangaan ka ng marami kapag nasa iyo ang mga bagay na ito.  Ngunit ang mga bagay na ito ay mga mga bagay na naluluma, nasisira, kumukupas at maaring mawala o manakaw sa atin. Ang ebanghelyo ng talinghaga ng natagpuang perlas at kayamanang nakabaon sa ilalim ng lupa ay nagpapaabot ng mensahe sa kung ano ang Kaharian ng Diyos, yaman, at paghuhukom.  Mga talinghagang nagtuturo sa atin ng tamang pagpili at pagpapahalaga sa mga tunay na yaman.

Ngayong school year na ito, ako ay graduating student na sa pag aaral ko sa Teolohiya, hindi ko maiwasang muling balikan ang karanasan ko, kung saan ako ay tinawag ng Diyos na pumasok ng seminaryo.  Bago ako tumugon sa Banal na Tawag na ito, ako po isang high school teacher, ilang taon din akong nagturo, may magandang trabaho, may mapagmahal at masayang pamilya, ang lahat ng ito ay aking pinahahalagahan. Ngunit nasumpungan ko ang kayamanang mas matimbang ang halaga, itong mga bagay na aking pinahahalagahan ay aking iniwan, upang makamtan ang kayamanang napakahalaga. Nakita ko ang napakahalagang perlas.

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Ako ay kabilang sa isang religious order, Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, kaming lahat ay namumuhay sa tatlong vows na aming isinasabuhay, ang poverty, chastity at obedience.  Ang kahirapan o poverty ang siyang lutang na lutang sa araw-araw naming pamumuhay.  Kung saan ang mga personal naming ari-arian ay aming hinayaang ariin din ng iba, namumuhay ng simple, ang mga pinipili ay payak, walang celfone, walang laptop, walang personal na akin, habang ang materyal na mundo ay kumakaway at tila baga  nagsasabing para masabing mayaman ka, kailangan tangan mo ang lahat ng ito.

Subalit sa pagtakbo ng panahon ng pamamalagi ko sa seminaryo, ipinakita rin sa akin ng Panginoon ang aking mga kakulangan at mga limitasyon.  Maraming mga pagkakataong ipinagpapalit ko Siya sa ibang kinang.  May mga sandaling, isina-isantabi ko nga ang lahat upang piliin ang kinang na ito.  May mga pangyayaring nakakapit nga ako sa Kanya pero tangan-tangan ko pa rin sa kabilang kamay ang ibang mga kaagaw Niya sa aking buhay.  Pilit kong binibitawan pero, pilit ko pa rin talagang hindi mabitaw-bitawan. Ang pag-ibig ko para kay Jesus ay hindi pa pala ganap.  Nakita ko ang kayamanang nakabaon. Inangkin ko kapalit ng mga bagay na pinahahalagahan ko.

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May apat na magbabarkada ang nakasakay sa pampublikong bus, tatlong lalaki at isang babae, ang isang lalaki ay kumakain ng junk food, maya maya nagsalita ang isa niyang kaibigan at nagtanong: “ Sinong may headphone?” At sumagot ang kumakain ng, “ito, ito…” ngunit bago nya matanggal ang headphone na gamit nya ay pinahawak nya ay kanyang kinakain, kasunod ang pag abot ng headphone sa kanyang kaibigan, matapos nito, kanya uling binawi ang pagkaing pinhawak niya.

Maya-maya, nasabi naman ng kaibigang katabi nya: “ang lamig bro…” pinahawak nya muli ang pagkain hawak nya sa katabi nya, para mahubad nya at maipahiram ang jacket na suot nya.

At ang kaibigan nyang babae naman, ang napansin nya na na gustong matulog, kaya natanong nya, “ masakit?” ibig sabihin nangangawit na ba ang leeg nya, kaya ang ginawa nya muli nyang pinahawak ang pagkaing hawak nya, upang matanggal ang unan na nasa leeg nya at ito’y mailipat sa leeg ng kaibigan nya.

Ngunit ng maibalik na sa kanya ang lalagyan ng pagkain nya, siya ay biglang nagulat. At siya ay nagulat dahil wala na palang laman ang kanyang kinakain: natanong nya na lang: “anong nangyari?” habang tumitingin sa apat nyang kaibigan, nasabi nya lang: “ganyan…ganyan…” Ganyan nga ang mangyayari sa atin, kapag binitawan natin ang mga bagay na nasa sa atin, tiyak mauubusan tayo, tiyak pagsisihan natin natin na bakit ko pa binitawan ang mga bagay na ito, ngayon ako naman ang nawalan.

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Ngunit sa Eukaristiya, ang paglalaan ng sarili ni Jesus ay nagkaruon ng kaganapan. Ang buhay niya ang pinakamahalagang yaman niya, alam nating kanya itong pinahalagahan, ngunit ang mahalagang ito ay kanyang ibinahagi, hanggang sa pagkabayubay ng kanyang katawan sa krus.

Ano ang mga yaman mo na hindi mo pa rin mabitaw bitawan upang maipagpalit mo sa pinakamahalagang antas na yaman. Sa Eukaristiya ating dinadaluhan tuwing linggo, ang sarili mismo ni Jesus ang kanyang inilalaan sa atin, nawa’y masabi nating ang eukaristiya ay sapat na, ang kanyang paglalaan ng sarili ay sapat na, ang kanyang pagmamahal ay sapat na, dahil ito ang ating tanging yaman. Amen.

 

 

FROM AFAR

I was still a college student then when I started to become fascinated with the Sta. Cruz Church. From my long break in class, I was exploring the nearby places in FEU (the University where I graduated) when I passed by the busy area of Sta.Cruz. As I look around, my attention was then caught by this old Spanish-built church. I was captivated by its exquisite appeal. At that moment, I felt differently as I headed through the door. Inside, I appreciate the inviting silence and the solemnity of the place, making me want to pray to the Blessed Sacrament, so as everyone else around me who are seated in that church.

As I watched from afar, I’ve observed the religious congregation occurring at that time. From the distance, I was so mystified with the way they pray and chant the psalms. Never did I know that I’ll be part of their evening prayer and that all happened, on that very momentous day.

May 4, 2012 – The day when I’ve become a member of this community. The fascination, bewildering, and mystifying became clear and fully apprehended. For a year, I was given a chance to witness what is stated in our Rule of Life # 41 that states “We will make our parishes into authentic communities shaped by the Eucharist, source and center of their life. They shall be: places of proclamation and the living of the gospel, places of prayer, Eucharistic adoration and festive celebration, places of sharing and fellowship, places of freedom and human development. United among themselves, our religious engaged in parish ministry shall collaborate in a special way with committed lay people.”

For a year, I was given a chance to experience the kind of life that I will embrace in the future as a Sacramentino Religious. My everyday experiences shaped and made me understand the following realizations:

First, In the formation house, I thought I am just nobody, limited in my knowledge and talents as compared to others. But then, I was given a chance to bring out the best of my potentials through the assignments entrusted by the Superior and Parish Priest to me. I was then appointed to be a Song leader in every morning mass, Intoner in every Lauds and Vespers, giving reflections, talks, recollections and formation in front of many people, and acting assistant treasurer of the community. These assignments somehow became so very easy for me, since I was a former accounting assistant in RCBC and a teacher by profession before I entered seminary. As I fulfill my devotion, there are times when I feel so elated, as I hear words of compliments from the parishioners such as “Brother, ang ganda ng boses mo…” “nakaka inspire naman ang talk mo…” “Br. Israel, ang galing galing mo naman…”, making me want to serve more with all the innate talents that God has bestowed on me, for I know that all these gifts has to be shared with them for me to inspire and touch their lives, and to eventually lead them to live a religious kind of life. Although at some point, I was also questioning myself if I am really that gifted because I hardly believe that I have such talents!

Second, I have this mantra everyday to “Always do my best!” that drives me to face all the works ahead of me with full of enthusiasm. I am always striving to be the best in every tasks entrusted to me. For me, to be consistently the best is the most important thing, but later did I know, that I was very wrong. I grew tired of always competing with myself, of always striving to be the best, because through that, I forgot to be good…to be a good individual; to be more compassionate; and to be more patient to myself and to others. From then on, I started to look life in a different perspective – that being the best has to yield positive outcome not only to myself, but for the common good of all.

Third, I also realized that the people of Sta. Cruz Parish are dynamic and unique. They will like you if you will always please them but they will hate you when you correct them in their wrong doings. I find it hard to cope with this principle and my desire to correct them only cause me troubles and pains. As a Sacramentino religious, I am very serious with my advocacy to rectify them because I care and love them. But I failed because there are some who are really not open for constructive criticisms. Through these conflicts, I grew wiser in dealing with them and that made me realize that no two people are alike in every aspect; that everyone has to be treated differently; and that’s why God created individuality is for us to be strong when one is weak; to be the positive when the other is negative; and to be white while the other is black; so in that way, we could learn to balance everything.

And lastly, I was so blessed to be assigned in this community because the religious members did not treat me only as a seminarian, but more so, as a mature religious. They gave me a chance to journey and to grow with them; they gave me a voice to express the love of God; they gave me eyes to see the beauty of vocation; and they gave me an ear to listen attentively to the voice of God. Being assigned in Sta. Cruz community became a chance for me to be a living witness of being a Sacramentino, a very Eucharistic person by joining them in everyday Eucharist, in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and in sharing my time with them in doing religious works.

My pastoral year exposure in Sta. Cruz community will forever be treasured in my heart. Those experiences I had, whether good or bad, are all worth remembering for those helped me become as religious as I am now. Those unclear pictures then on my head;  those confusion and mystifying, and those fascination and bewildering are now all gone. I have come to understand that the life I am embracing today and my life to be in the future is more on sacrificing and devotion, and the unselfish offering of my service to God and to others.