St. Michael's Parish - Cobourg

It’s worth the pain -Easter 2016

It’s worth the pain                                                                              -Easter 2016

 

In Spanish we have a phrase that could be translated: “it’s worth the pain” (vale la pena). I think you English speakers would prefer to say simply “it’s worth it,” but the meaning is the same I guess. You do not pay if it is not worth it. You do not train hard if it is not worth it. You do not sacrifice yourself; you do not suffer if it is not worth the pain.

 

One of the most important teachings of the Resurrection is precisely this: it’s worth the pain. After this miserable life, there is a reward. After death there is life. And not only for those who did good, but also for those who did evil, though not with the same reward. Jesus said in the Gospel of John:  “the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29). When I say it’s worth the pain, of course I mean that it’s worthwhile to suffer doing good, it’s worthwhile to persevere in faith despite suffering, because the reward for good works is a resurrection of eternal happiness and joy.

 

There is a lot of talk about assisted suicide. As Christians we cannot agree with this. “You shall not kill,” says the Lord. We have already reflected several times about this. My point today is that the reason for assisted suicide is precisely this: Suffering is not worth the pain, there is no reason for a person to endure suffering: suffering makes a person without worth, they say. They also say, there is no reason for us to suffer taking care of a person who would die. If your car is at the mechanic once a month, you get rid of it. It’s not worth it. If your father or your mother… What am I saying?? If your father or mother is in the hospital so often… “Honour your father and your mother,” says the Lord! What does it mean to honour them? Well, at least, I think it must mean something like not to kill them…

 

1) “Suffering makes a person without worth,” they say. But I tell you, suffering is what makes a person a hero, a true witness, or a martyr. If you have not suffered, you don’t know what love is. If you don’t know what love is, you are still not worthy to be called a human being. If you don’t suffer, you don’t know the value of life, of health, of food, money, you know nothing. If you don’t suffer, you don’t know how much power there is in a human heart. St. Basil the Great said: “You really know the helmsman in the storm, you know the athlete in the competition, you know a great person in suffering.” Suffering is not a reason to kill a person, it is a reason to help that person! What happened to our common sense? What happened to our Christian sense of solidarity? What happened to our culture?

 

2) “Suffering is a burden for the community.” Put it in this way: the suffering of a mother is a burden for her son. But, dear son, don’t you remember that one day you yourself were a burden for your mother? Is that how you pay back? How can we give death to the one who gave us life? “No, we have to think about the broader community: this person is a burden for the system.” But if the system is not made for the common good of all persons, who decides who will be a burden for the system? Who qualifies as a member of the system? Who decides what kind of life is worthy to be lived? If people are discarded because they are not useful, it is because those who govern us consider us objects of use. If that is the case, we are no longer human beings, but monsters for one another, consumers, eaters of one another. And Jesus had said: “Love one another as I have loved you”! He commanded us to give our life, to suffer for our brothers and sisters. Now to suffer is no longer a commandment, it is a sin!

 

3) I am speaking about this today, because the joy of the resurrection “is worth the pain.” We will not have the joy of the resurrection if we kill ourselves or our brothers and sisters. We will not have the joy of the resurrection if we don’t help those who suffer, if we don’t honour our parents. But if we suffer patiently, if we share the burden of those who are dying, if we accompany them in their passing to eternal life, the promise of the resurrection is ours. God did not mean to make us suffer: “through the devil's envy death entered the world” (Wisdom 2:24). But suffering is not forever, death is not the end: there is life after death. No illness can kill the soul, no cancer can destroy the love of a mother. Those who have gone before us are with us here today: they pray with us, they pray for us, they love us with that same love they had when they were here, and even more. They expect, together with us, to recover their body in perfect shape at the end of time. And this is something we must not forget. It is worth the pain, because Jesus rose from the dead not to be alone, but as the “first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1Co 15:20) as the first born of many brothers and sisters. God is the God of life, and he wants to give us life, eternal life and happiness for ever, with our own body, at the end of time.

 

May God help us to protect the lives of our brothers and sisters, to love them for what they are, and not for what they can do. We should not discriminate against those who suffer: they are not less than we are because they suffer; maybe they are more than we are. People who suffer are called to the same mission of Jesus on the cross: to suffer for the redemption of human kind. Jesus suffers in them until the end of time. May we respect them  and love them as we respect  and love Jesus. May the Lord grant us with them the resurrection of life. –Fr. Andrew