Jim needed an emergency appendectomy. He complained to the
doctor, a good friend, "When God gave us an appendix, there must have been some
reason for it." "There is," replied the doc, "God gave you that appendix to help
me put my son through college." The doctor had a sense of humor, but suffering
isn’t funny. It comes to all, even to the Son of God, who proclaims in today’s
Gospel that he must suffer, and that we must take up our cross and follow
How can we make sense of suffering? The answer is linked to
human freedom. God is love, and God made us for love. This requires freedom
because it can’t be forced. Freedom means we can say yes or no to God. God gave
us wonderful talents to use for good. But down through the ages, some people
have used those talents for evil purposes.
Suffering results. God allows it for the sake of freedom. But
God doesn’t ignore us. Jesus took upon himself the suffering of the world. He
carried his cross so we could have his help in carrying ours. As today’s Gospel
shows, Jesus was willing to suffer even when Peter said he shouldn’t. And when
we join our sufferings with Christ’s, he can do wonderful things for us.
Mary Beth was a lovely teenager who worked hard to help
underprivileged children ... while she was dying of cancer. Her motto was: "Life
is short. Laugh hard!" Her courage and good humor in suffering brought God’s
love to many. I’m sure she’s in heaven, (promised by Jesus in today’s Gospel),
with a new motto: "Life here is forever. Laugh really hard!!"
Mary Beth demonstrates how we can offer our sufferings in union
with Christ’s to help others, and gain eternal joy. Mary Beth’s patterned her
life on our blessed Mother, Mary, who suffered with Jesus and offered her
suffering for others. So can we.
Why appendicitis? Why suffering? Not to send some doctor’s son
to college, but because we live in a world where God’s gift of freedom is
misused. We can’t change the whole world. But we can draw close to Jesus and
unite our sufferings. And we can remember Mary Beth’s new motto: "Life in heaven
is forever. Laugh really hard!"