I hope all is well with all of you! Today is already the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost and since the Epistle is on suffering – I am going to address the message of St. Paul to the Romans. My sweet friend Eddie is still suffering as she is being taken care of in Hospice Care. She has congestive heart failure and COPD coupled with a long time illness similar to bi-polar. These words in today’s epistle speak volumes to all of us but truly for souls such as Eddie who is suffering in her last days.
St. Paul speaks of the glorious fruits of justification through Christ, of the happiness of sanctification, of the riches of being a child of God. If we are to live a life in imitation of Our Savior, Jesus Christ, we must undergo sufferings. St. Paul presents two thoughts which should keep us from losing our faith in God’s fatherly love in time of suffering. The first is that earthly suffering is as nothing when measured against the bliss and glory of Heaven. “Brethren! I reckon that the sufferings of the present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come that will be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:16). Compared with the glory and happiness which “surpasses all understanding”, which will never end, what are suffering and sorrow, labor and privation, which last at most only a few years? Even now, looking back on our lives, the sufferings of the past seem to have lasted only a few fleeting moments. How much more when we view them some day from eternity!
The second thought is that the sufferings of this life are the birthpains of eternal glory. As I see my friend Eddie dying, I am reminded of my long labors when I was giving birth to my children. It seemed as though it would not end but suddenly did and there was a beautiful child for this labor. I feel the same with my friend. She is suffering her purgatory on earth. Soon she will be with Our Lord in Heaven for eternity even if there is still time for her in purgatory!!
“We know,” continues St. Paul, “that all creation groans and travails in pain until now. And not only it, but we ourselves also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit – we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our body.” (8:22) As the birthpangs are the price of a mother’s joy and happiness, so our earthly sufferings are the price of the bliss of Heaven. Through them we ripen unto our eternal perfection, and together with us all creation, which groans with us under the curse of sin. Nature too, as a “new earth and a new heaven” (2 Pet. 3:13) will then share this blessed consummation with us. Never, therefore, should we doubt God’s goodness; despite all sufferings we must trustfully surrender to His holy and loving plans.
Also, in today’s Gospel, we learn to put our trust in God with not only our sufferings but also our work – our labors. Sitting in Peter’s boat, Jesus had taught the crowds who pressed upon Him. When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon Peter: “Put out into the deep and lower your nets for a catch” (Luke 5:4) Simon Peter could not believe his ears. As an experienced fisherman he knew that during the day the fish seek the deep spots which his nets could not reach. Now he was to go far out on the sea in the heat of the day and cast his nets! He had just come back from a futile attempt but despite all this - Peter placed his trust in his Master. Peter therefore said with determination: “At Thy word I will lower the net.” His confidence was rewarded beyond all expectation. A great lesson for all of us – always! After the miracle of broken nets with so many fish, Simon Peter gives up all and follows Jesus. May we also learn from this and not trust in ourselves or man but follow Jesus and go to Jesus for all things. How consoling and heartening is this truth for us! Even if our work appears, humanly speaking, to lack all prospect of success – when we feel it is doomed to fail – TURN TO JESUS! And even if God decides not to give us overflowing nets from our works, we can be assured that it is blessed because it was done for God and God alone. Earthly success may never be ours, but Heaven’s reward is assured if we are always faithful to Him!
Bernadette Porter is a Traditional Catholic, a wife of 41 years with 6 adult home-schooled children and 6 grandchildren. A sincere devotion to Mary, the Mother of God leads me to want to share "The Church's best kept secret" - Mary!