The readings of Trinity Sunday should give assurance to all who suffer and long to be with Christ. The First Reading was from Deuteronomy 4. It reminds us of how God has been with humanity from the beginning. God has always been involved in human affairs and desires a relationship with people. He has not forsaken us.
God loves that which he has created and placed humanity above all creation. He calls his people to keep his commandments for their own well-being.
That desire for relationship between God and man is illustrated again in the Second Reading taken from Romans 8. It is couched in familial language. "Brothers and sisters: All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons and daughters of God."
This passage continues speaking to Christians in terms of a family: "But you have received a spirit of adoption to sonship. When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him."
Although the reading does not include the next verse, it has been a great consolation for me through more than 28 years of chronic illness and disability. Romans 8.18 says, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us."
All who suffer must constantly remember that something far greater awaits us in eternity. Our present pain will be dwarfed by eternity's joy. In an earlier column, I said that in 2 Corinthians we see more assurance that the Christian's present afflictions produce a weight of glory in heaven that is beyond comparison.
What we see is transitory, what is unseen is eternal. This moment's freight of pain is incomprehensible; it must be seen through eyes of faith where it is possible to accept in humble submission and alignment with Christ's redemptive suffering.
We have a prize of God's upward calling in Jesus Christ. We who are losers in this world must keep our spiritual discernment firmly fixed on the unseen reality of Christ. His image and glory will yet come into clear focus. Our inheritance is with and in Christ and will be our ultimate joy.
God has set eternity in the hearts of men. That is the source of the insatiable longing within you and me which began in our earliest childhood – like a distant and indistinct inkling of something that cannot quite be remembered.
It is a desire to give and receive perfect love, which are both just out of our reach and it breaks our hearts to realize it. Our hearts, the core of our being, must be perfected to receive and give perfect love which is the essence of God. Suffering can achieve this when we place our pain in Jesus' pierced hands.
We were made for heaven yet we are incapable of understanding what God has done and prepared for us. The anticipating is almost as sweet as the having.
My earthly losses have only increased my desire for holiness in preparation for the next world. I want to be presentable to God and be able to accept his perfect love for me and, return a perfect love for my heavenly Father, through Christ. This can only be done once I have been thoroughly stripped of pride and self-centredness that crippled my life more than disease.
I'm beginning to understand that sickness and disability are the vehicles to excise my infernal pride. I have ceased to ask "Why did God allow me to become crippled and sick?" I know why. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "We, too, need to shed our skins of pride through suffering." Discovering real truth involves suffering. Truth without tears is a shallow truth.
Do not be afraid of weeping when you suffer or mourn. Jesus said you will be comforted (Matthew 5.4). You may cry now but will laugh with joy. In heaven God himself will wipe away every tear you have ever shed. He knows your present pain. Christ is with us.
That brings me to the third reading of Trinity Sunday which comes from the last chapter of Matthew. It concludes with a promise. Christ said, "Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." We do not suffer alone.