Redemptive Suffering

By Marissa Brown

“Each man in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ” — St. Pope John Paul II

In two and a half weeks, I believe I have experienced the gamut  of human emotion. My tears have fallen heavy upon the floor as I knelt in my living room watching Mass on my TV screen. I have laughed with my husband, listening to our kids navigate yet another disagreement that came from trying to play together; I have shared tremendous joy with dear friends during a “virtual” happy hour.

I have also experienced real fear as I pray for the family and friends that we are isolated from — our oldest daughter quarantined with her roommate, my sister and her children down in Florida, my parents who live just an hour and a half south.  In this fear I think of the hugs that cannot be given, the dinners and conversations with dear friends we are missing. For me, the fear of death is not present nor the fear of the actual virus. I leave this to God because I cannot bear all of the fear; the burden is too great; the fear would be too consuming. But, at times I do grapple with the fear of being separated from those close to my heart.

We — my husband, kids and I — have also experienced tremendous peace — peace in laying our sufferings at the foot of the cross.  We are in communion with Catholics all over the world at precisely the same time, our unique trials and tribulations are untied in this suffering together over a common enemy. For the first time in my life, I have felt peace in knowing that all of humanity’s combined suffering — the pervasive fear that we are all know, the pain of loss and illness — that Jesus took all of it for us.  His journey to Calvary was for us. I reflect on this and sit with it, and for the first time, have time to really ponder the meaning.

In my reflecting, I often return Jesus in the garden, praying as he was about to encounter suffering and death. This particular contemplation of Jesus has been heavy on my heart.  Over the last few weeks our lives have been uprooted on an every day — and sometimes every hour — basis. I keep picturing Jesus in the garden on His last night. 

When my kids overwhelm me with the phrase “Hey Mom” (and use it over-and-over-and-over), and I cannot find a moment’s peace, I remember Jesus praying alone. I imagine how He must have felt, realizing his friends had fallen asleep and left him in silence.  He was desperate for company; He so deeply wanted those closest to Him to stay awake, be with him, and pray.

And me — in my desperate moments — I find myself doing the opposite, doing anything I can to find silence and be left alone. Through the prayer and reflection that I suddenly have time for, I am beginning to understand Him. He is trying to tell me that when the chaos, noise levels, and neediness of my children reach symphonic levels, instead of running from the noise, frantic to find a hiding spot, I should turn to my children and ask them to pray with me.  We can find silence together, search for peace and unite together in the moments when it seems the house is spinning out of control.

As their Mother, Jesus is calling me to quiet the chaos and calm our nerves instead of focusing on mine alone. If I am totally honest, I don’t really like that He is trying to impart this wisdom on me. It feels like such a sacrifice to not run from the madness. It almost hurts to not put myself and my needs first in this unprecedented time of fluctuating emotions, panic that tries to sneak its way in, and uncertainty of how long this quarantine will last and we remain separated from our loved ones — friends, schools, churches, and life outside of our homes.

And then I hear Jesus and His gentle whisper bringing me back to the garden once more. Jesus was afraid. “Father, if you are willing , take this cup away from me; still, not my will but your be done.” And to strengthen him an angel from heaven appeared to him. He was in such agony and he prayed so fervently that his sweat became like drops of blood falling on the ground.” Luke 22: 42-44

He was afraid, but He trusted in His father and accepted his cross.  Jesus allowed all of my sins to nail Him to the cross, and He did it out of Love — love for me, for my children, and for my husband — love for each one of us because of His desire to be with us forever in His kingdom.  He is teaching me through this trial in my life, that with much sacrifice, great love will prevail. In my moments of weakness wrought with fear, anxiety, anger, and feelings of being overwhelmed, He invite me to quiet myself and those around me. I bring them with me to the garden to pray with our Lord.

Do not run from Him, run towards him. Kneel with him, unite your hearts as a family and focus your sufferings together. Meet Christ in the garden to pray. In the silence you will find Jesus and He will give you strength.

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In what ways can you run toward (rather than away from) your family in moments of chaos?

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