Thursday, March 8, 2012

SSS: Service, Sacrifice and Suffering

“If we choose to be a disciple of Jesus, we should be prepared to come down on the difficult side of many issues. For sure there will be plenty of people who will try to pull us down and conspire against us in the battle for winning the hearts and minds of the men and women of the world. Men, both influential and irrelevant, plotted against Jeremiah. We had better be ready for the same if we want to be Jesus’ disciple.”

“Sacrifice and suffering are all part of the life of a disciple of Jesus. Jesus experienced this, so we can be pretty sure that we will have at least some experience of it, too. Jesus uses an image of drinking from a cup of suffering because it involves the notion that we are choosing such a path in life. Just as we choose to drink from a cup, a disciple of Jesus chooses to walk a path of suffering and challenges because he knows that this is the path of someone who lives and breathes the Gospel.”

These words were taken from the Catholic Scripture Diary, Companion. I can’t help but agree. Jeremiah experienced persecution as he served and followed God’s will. His words as a prophet were like burning arrows to those whom God wants him to bring His message to. He suffered because he chose to obey God and proclaim God’s message to the people of Judah. God’s word was like a fire in Jeremiah’s heart that he could not keep it to himself. But it caused him suffering as people got angry when they heard the unpleasant message that the prophet has to say.

Then, it was Jesus’ turn to suffer. He was a perfect example of a servant of God. He did not only accept the Father’s will; He actually embraced it and lived His life consumed by it. Like Jeremiah, His Words made the leaders of His time uncomfortable. His words challenged them. His words disturbed and haunted them. Thus, these people plotted to silence Him. But more than His words, His life itself spoke God’s message powerfully. His actions and the miracles that He performed all testified to the truth of His words and yet, some of those around Him did not see the hand of God upon Him. If they had seen it, they chose to ignore it for they were absorbed in their evil plans against Him. They could not bear to hear more of Him. They could not bear to watch Him live a life of complete obedience to the Father’s will. For this, He suffered greatly. He suffered greatly for living out perfectly the Father’s will.

What does this imply for us who follow Jesus?

If our Lord, Master and Teacher experienced these things, then we must not be surprised if as we serve Him, we would experience these same things. Instead, we must be ready when challenges and persecution come our way. The enemy will not take things sitting down. When we work to win hearts and souls for the kingdom, the enemy will do his best to hinder us and to harass us at all sides. If we are to follow Jesus’ footsteps, we must also embrace sacrifice and suffering as He did. Following Jesus’ example of obeying the Father’s will is not an easy path but it’s the only path for the true disciple of the Master.

But what must we do when the enemy comes after us?

We follow Jesus’ example once more. We pray more. We let the Lord fight for us. We put on the full armor of God and use God’s Word as sword against the enemy.

What does this mean for us who choose serve?

It means that we should not be surprised when trials and persecution come our way. If Jesus had enemies because of obeying the Father’s will, should we be surprised if we too gain enemies because we choose to serve and obey God? The Father did not spare His only Son from suffering when his Son obeyed Him. He will not spare us as well. But since we know that we are just obeying God’s will, like Jesus, let us turn to the Father for strength and courage in moments of trials and persecution. Let the Father fight our enemies for us. Let the Father enlighten those who want to silence us, mock us or crucify us. And let us find peace and joy amid our sufferings knowing that we are doing God’s holy and perfect will in our lives.

Are you a modern day Jeremiah? Is God asking you to drink from the same cup of suffering where He drank during His Passion? Are people conspiring against you? Are you suffering for living out your faith? Are you suffering for acting on God's words? Do not be afraid. Rejoice instead for these things that you experience allow you to be one with Christ in His Passion. Though sometimes you feel that God has abandoned you, remember that God the Father is going through all these sacrifices and sufferings with you. More importantly, He waits on the other side to grant you victory.

For the Suffering Servant did not stay inside the tomb forever. He rose victorious! So suffering servants of God, lift up your eyes to the Almighty with outstretched hands and cry out to him in your sufferings and pains. He hears you! He sees you! He loves you! He is pleased with you! The very people whom you serve may not know the depth and extent of your sacrifices but He knows. And He only has this to say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant!”

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