Some leave the Catholic Church to join a protestant community or
another Christian church because it is easier, it is less demanding;
more aligned to the world.
But what did Jesus say when He was brought before Pilate?
"Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants
would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my
kingdom is from another place.”
They might say it is because they find it more "human", more "kind",
but the truth is that in the Catholic Church practicing Catholics are asked
to "carry their crosses" and there is far less emphasis on that in the other
Crosses are everything that is difficult or painful in any way whatsoever.
The thing about suffering is that they are hidden opportunities.
We are talking about things that occur in the course of our life,
events and situations, big and small, on a daily basis, not masochistic
behaviour, the latter rather being a problem of psychological nature.
Suffering can be entered into, we can be fully present with it, we can use it,
offer it up, to God.
Even small things like having to wait in a queue, waiting in an airport,
feeling lonely, being bored, etc, are opportunities that can be used.
If we are being insulted, misunderstood, abused, bullied, slandered,
belittled, forgotten, ignored, etc, we can use that as well, by not retaliating.
Turn the other cheek, love the one who hates you.
(admittedly this is more difficult because of our pride, but imagine how
strong we can become by this practice!)
We are like coins which has 2 sides, one of "the world", the other being
our eternal souls.
Our worldly side does not want pain of any sort, it will automatically try
to avoid it, flee from it, suppress it, medicate it, repress it, deny it, get rid of it,
or at least; to reduce it to a minimum. We are trying to "save ourselves".
In Luke 17:33 (ESV) we see that:
"Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his
life will keep it".
and in the New Living translation:
"If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go,
you will save it".
and in Mark 8:35:
"For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses
his life for My sake and for the gospel will save it."
For example; divorce and abortion, appear to be solutions, but both of them
creates deep wounds and disorder, personally and socially.
It is about putting everything into the hands of God, surrendering to His
will, and not following our own will and our own inclinations, because they
are not trustworthy and can change at any moment.
The Catholic faith might seem paradoxical at first glance , but it isn't,
because underneath the surface and the workings of this material world
God's eternal truth never changes.
Anything that we have a natural resistance to, can be utilized for our
spiritual gain. It is a practice, a training program, if you will.
Hunger, for example; nature seeks to satisfy it, but Jesus said :
“It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that
comes from the mouth of God.’”
That is why fasting has always been an important part of Catholic practice.
There are so many excesses in the world, but another one that
come to mind is the natural inclination to boost our egos,
to feed it by, unconsciously perhaps, seeking praise and admiration
from others, while maybe on the surface appearing humble.
But true humility is extremely rare.
Saint Therese of Lisieux is a good example of suffering;
the emotional trauma of loosing her mother and then her mother-figure;
her older sister, which caused a nervous breakdown, was beneficial
and an aide in her spiritual life. Later on she also suffered physically
as she died a slow and painful death of tuberculosis.
She had developed the art and mastery of using suffering as a means to
unite herself with Jesus, and she said that we should never waste any
opportunity that come our way to offer up our pain to God.
Saint Therese also endured harsh treatment by her Mother Superior,
and she made use of that as well, by being extra nice in response.
(turn the other cheek) ( love those who hate you)
Catholic priests and nuns are celibate; it is because it is difficult,
they are crosses, willingly and freely accepted suffering. It is radical.
In the Catholic Church sex outside marriage is not allowed, this restraint
demands a serious focus of the entire person in all the aspects of his life,
because marriage is also difficult; it can often become crosses, but we
promised to be true to the holy pact we made with each other and with God
that no matter what happens, we will stay the course.
Our spouse might be the cross we suffer daily.
It is the focus, the concentration, the discipline, that brings inner unity
and stability, first of all to the person, and then to the unity of marriage.
Crosses can be gifts even though they are not wrapped in nice wrapping paper.
How many Catholics understand the Mystery of the Cross?
I remember a young man who suffered from multiple sclerosis who I met on a
pilgrimage many years ago, who, despite being active in the Church told me how
outrageous he thought it was that a priest had said to him that his illness
was a gift.
People in general are outraged if you try to suggest that there are benefits
to be drawn from suffering, because human nature will always shun it.
But Jesus said:
"Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their
cross daily and follow me."