Internal and External Humiliation and Suffering

Mural at the Chapel of Father Ray at the Redemptorist Center in Pattaya, ThailandThe humiliation and the suffering that we meet in our lives have, or can have, value. That is the message of the Cross. Suffering does not have to be an emptiness and only a loss. It can be transfigured into something more. We can find value in an internal, willed, and accepted identification with Christ, suffering and crucified.

When we place value on suffering, it is not the external, physical, or imposed value that we are thinking of. If it were, we would be valuing something bad in itself. Rather, the value which Christians and, in particular, contemplatives, place on suffering is the internal value. It is the identification, the will, and the interior change that we honour. This is even so of Christ. Writes Blessed Titus Brandsma of Jesus crucified:

3TitusPhoto00Compared to this internal image, finally, that external image of wounds and stripes is something secondary; it is of value as the confirmation and deepening of that internal image.

The external suffering and humiliation which meet us and overtake us on our journey are valuable, even in the Crucifixion, because they are an image of, expression of, and in conformity with the interior suffering and humiliation. They show, outside and in a transfigured state, that we “come to do the Father’s will” (cf. Jn 6:38) and “do not regard equality with God as something to be grasped” (cf. Phil 2:6).

We don’t need to lose ourselves in finding the external. We don’t need to bend over backwards to mortify ourselves and do the physically impossible. The internal is always there for us: the mortification of our will, the choice to be patient and be with people when the opportunity comes, the intention, the death to the old self, the humiliation, and the spirit of poverty. And this is the harder.

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