My wife Vida loves to remember the homilies of a Jesuit priest whose Masses we used to go to some years ago.
There was something special about his homilies, and we used to listen to them attentively. We moved to a different neighborhood and now go to another parish. But from time to time my wife mentions one of the homilies that had the greatest impact on her and that she never forgets.
The priest spoke of a woman who was a regular at the evening Eucharistic celebration. One day she approached him after Mass and said to him with compunction:
Father, I fulfill all my obligations as a Christian. I go to Mass every day, I pray the holy Rosary, I help whoever I can, but even so, bad things happen to me. I have some problems that I don’t know how I’m going to solve. Supposedly I should be living in peace and calm, not with these anxieties that rob me of my life.
The priest recounted his reply: “Jesus never said that coming to Mass would keep these things from happening to you, but that he would give you the strength you need to overcome them.”
Difficulties and peace
“We’ll never get rid of all difficulties, at least not in this world,” he said. “They’re part of life.”
“Peace, that peace that Christ gives us, is interior. We can possess it in spite of all of our problems. If we love and trust in his Word, we’ll have peace,” he explained.
“Maybe,” he added, “our problems don’t go away because they’re helping us to be more humble, increase our faith, and help us to be a better person. There’s a Bible verse that explains it very clearly.”
The priest looked at all of us out of the corner of his eye and continued:
“Does anyone present at this Mass know which verse I spoke to this woman about?”
Someone raised his hand and answered, “Sirach 2:1-7.”
This pleased the priest, and he said, “Exactly. Let’s look it up in our Bible. It’s worth everyone present at this Mass knowing about.“
He opened the Bible and read:
My child, when you come to serve the Lord,
prepare yourself for testing.
Set your heart right and be steadfast,
and do not be impetuous in time of calamity.
Cling to him and do not depart,
so that your last days may be prosperous.
Accept whatever befalls you,
and in times of humiliation be patient.
For gold is tested in the fire,
and those found acceptable, in the furnace of humiliation.
The fruits of suffering
“The Bible,” the priest continued, “has several verses that explain to us why suffering and having difficulties is not always as bad as it seems.”
“Although suffering is inevitable, we can make sense of it. And we’re not talking about suffering for the sake of suffering, but of tribulation that is offered, accepted, that bears fruits for eternity. Let’s look at what St. Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-5:
And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
Now you know. Suffering is part of life. No one likes to suffer — that’s natural — but if you suffer, at least give it meaning, offer it up. Pray for the conversion of poor sinners, the holiness of our priests, families, young people… There are so many things for which you can offer your suffering!
A saint used to say: “It is better to be on the cross with Jesus than to look up at him from below.”
Let me share a secret with you: In times of trial I like to go to the Tabernacle and visit Jesus.
He’s always there, ready to help us, to strengthen our souls, to comfort us.
Courage! Be patient and pray with faith. May God bless you.