A Treasure?
Off The Wall, April 15, 2011

When we think of suffering, we may relate to a friend or relative that may have had diseases that led to their passing. Others may think of the headache or the broken bones experienced in a fall. And yet, how many people do we know that hung on to life for a matter days after being in an automobile accident, only to have succumbed as a result of their injuries.

Everyone at one time or another has experienced some kind of pain. I think that it’s commonplace, in a manner of speaking.

With that said, I was praying the Little Flower Novena recently when I came upon these words that made me stop and think. A novena is a prayer said for nine days, each day stating something different, ending with a thought for the day and a concluding prayer.

On the fifth day of this novena the words read, “Little Flower of Jesus, from the very first moment of your religious life, you thought only of denying yourself in all things so as to follow Jesus more perfectly; help me to bear patiently the trials of my daily life.”

Now, here is the part that stopped me in my tracks, so to speak. “Teach me to make use of the trials, the sufferings, the humiliations, that come my way, to learn to know myself better and to love God more. Intercede for us all the days of our life, but especially during the novena and obtain for us from God the graces and favors we as through your intercession. Amen.”

Following was the thought for today. “When we are expecting noting but suffering, we are quite surprised at the least joy; but then suffering itself becomes the greatest of joys when we seek it as a precious treasure.”

I can’t help but feel that I am spoiled when I have a backache, sinus problem or oxygen problem, and know I have a remedy at my fingertips. How often have I scurried over to the chiropractor for an adjustment to settle the spasms in my back, snorted saltwater to drain my sinus cavities or reached for the canister only to insert the tube in my nose to breathe easier. Looking back, if I wouldn’t have had morphine, pain pills or over the counter drugs, I can only imagine in what shape I may have been.

Do you think I could have found one ounce of joy or even sought it out as my grievances overtook me?

Digging into the core of my cell matter, I find it quite difficult as others may, too, to “seek suffering as a precious treasure.” From a personal perspective, I can only parallel to Christ’s death on the cross. Could it be supposed that our Lord, watching the stakes being driven through his wrists into the beams, had in His heart these “precious treasures?” After all, He was dying for all men so that they could be set free of their sin. Only One person could have done it. Only One person did do it and that was Jesus Christ on what has become known as Good Friday.

I saw a reproduction hanging in the hallway of St. Paul of the Cross Retreat Center. It depicted Jesus lying on the ground watching someone driving a nail through His right wrist. I have never forgotten that image.

I can only think that our Savior was experiencing excruciating pain, as any other individual would, too. After all, he was a human being just like any of us. But the painting was so dramatic that it still leaves me with mixed emotions every time I bring it to mind.

So, again, if one were to read those words – “suffering becomes the greatest of joys when we seek it as a precious treasure,” I can only shed tears knowing that someone so brave, so willing, so giving, let Himself be led to Calvary where He would be put to death in such heinous fashion.

There’s a lesson here. Let’s start by trivializing our discomforts. Let them be our reminders of Christ’s death, and try to find joy despite suffering, whatever it is.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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