09 September 2013

Moving Through the Dark Night

Today's Readings  - Col. 1:24-2:3; Lk. 6:6-11

We hear today a peculiar Pauline sentiment: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His Body, which is the Church…”

This raises two important questions: one about Christ, the other about our own human experience.  They are distinct questions we cannot escape.  They may not always be voiced in the same way, but there is a sort of universal quality to the two issues that Paul raises.

The first is Christological: If Christ’s sacrifice may be further “filled up,” does that mean it is lacking in the first place?

The second is anthropological: Can suffering be a good thing?

Paul – or a follower of Paul - is attempting to set up a picture of what Christ has done and, in doing so, link our actions intimately with his. 

Christ’s sufferings give us a key not to justify the harsh way the world treats the “little ones,” but rather provides for us the strength to carry on regardless of our own sufferings, confident that our identification with Christ is the correct instinct.

Moreover, Paul calls us to confidence that the trials we undergo now do in fact have some type of meaning. 

Thus, Paul neither answers a question regarding the origin of suffering (he knew suffering itself well enough) nor the efficacy of Christ’s suffering (in his mind that was self-evident). 

Instead, Paul is making the point for us that we are called to present the Gospel regardless of our own sufferings, as did Christ – regardless of our own personal situation.  What is often lost about the “dark nights” of John of the Cross and Mother Theresa is that regardless of their own spiritual situation, they continued to live and preach the Gospel of our Lord.   

And so, in the final account, let us pray this morning that strengthened by the Word and Table of the Lord, we are given courage to walk the lonesome valley of the Lord for the sake of Christ and His suffering Church.

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