Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 19 of Season 5 for the Fifth Sunday of Easter: May 15, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from John, Chapter 13 verses 31-33a, 34-35
When Judas had left them, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and God will glorify him at once.
My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
The Gospel of the Lord
“Love and Suffering,” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
This is how all will know you are my disciples. If you have love for one another, it all seems so very simple, doesn't it? If it all boils down to love.
In one sense, it is very simple, but in another sense, it's also extremely complicated. As human beings, our loving is imperfect and we all know that to be true. Each one of us, when we hear the word "love," understands it in our own unique and particular way. How we understand and act in love is very much colored by our own personal experiences of love. Beginning from the time we were first brought into this world to where we find ourselves now.
For some love has been a very difficult journey. A journey of rejection, of hurt. For many love is a negative word that causes them to coil within, to protect themselves and insulate themselves so they no longer can be rejected or hurt.
Some folks don't really know how to love at all.
Others see love as something that builds them up, that completes their lives, that is something that is meant for their own self-enhancement and wellbeing. And while love is all of those things and many others besides, there is one thing for sure is that it's never easy to love. Anyone who has loved unconditionally and loved with a devoted heart and found that love lost, found that love rejected, knows that love comes with a companion and that companion is suffering.
Because we don't like to suffer, because we don't like to feel the grief of pain, we tend to either shy away from loving at all, or we define it so that it's more palatable and easier for us. It's easier to love when it's all warm and fuzzy. It's quite another thing to love when it gets more challenging and difficult.
That's why, if you remember, Jesus made a big point of saying, "if you're only going to reach out and have at your table those who can return the favor back to you, what good is that unbelievers do those things?" You see for the Christian, the quality of love as a disciple of Jesus Christ matters. But when we do that kind of loving, it also comes with suffering. It comes with hardship and it comes with a great deal of self de-vestment of self-giving and of self-sacrifice.
You know, there's no way to get around one reality of being a human being, and that is suffering. There is going to be hardship and there's going to be suffering in life, no matter what we do. Helen Keller said that dealing with hardship, isn't accomplished by jumping around it, but by learning how to work through it.
Life is going to be difficult. Life is going to be disappointing. Life is going to cause us to suffer. We live in the incompleteness of ourselves here in this world, and God knew that. That's why Jesus on the cross suffered. It was a part of the deal.
It's the suffering that we inflict on others, the unjust suffering, that's criminal. See, when we cause someone else to feel pain and we do that willfully, if we take up acts of violence to directly hurt people that is criminal, but the kind of suffering that comes simply with being a human being that's redemptive.
When we hear that word, that suffering is redemptive, sometimes our brains start to misfire. And what does that really mean? That suffering is redemptive.
We all come here every week to mass and say Oscar Romero, just reading phenomenal work by his called The Violence of Love. And in that he talks about the mass and our relationship to it. And I'll paraphrase a bit and then add a little to this myself, but he says all of us come week by week with our lives, with all that have unfolded, since we been here the last time and each one of us comes with sorrow, with sadness, with confusion, with joy, with hopes, with fears, anxieties, worries, the burdens of life, questions. All of it. Our human lives play out right here. Every time we gathered together as a community of faith. And we gather in unison around the altar.
Do we ever consider what happens during the holy sacrifice of the mass? All of that stuff, the story of our lives, all comes here. And eternal priest who knows suffering and hardship more than you and I will ever know, the eternal priest takes all of it. All of it, all that we bring all of the confusion, all the pain, all the worry, all the sorrow, all of it.
He takes it. And through the human priest you offer is the sacrifice of the mass, all of that gets lifted up to the father. All gets lifted up to the father.
And then we received the Holy Eucharist. We don't just receive bread and wine in some symbolic gesture of remembrance, we received the actual body and blood of the suffering Christ, of the Christ who hung on the cross, of the Christ, who knows our pain, who has just gathered that from us and lifted it to the father as an offering of love just as his was.
You see the problem with suffering in our lives is that we don't know what to do with it because our human brains say, "get rid of it" or "it shouldn't be "here," or "if God is love, why is there suffering?" We never begin to realize that the only way to correct human love is through suffering. Think about it.
When our love suffers, the attention is taken away from ourselves and put on someone else. When our love suffers, it becomes less about our own self-fulfillment and more about something greater and bigger than me. And sometimes the only place to bring our suffering with eyes of faith that make any sense is here. Right to the cross. Because here suffering and love meet. And what does the cross do? It glorifies God, it gives God glory in mysterious ways that we don't always comprehend and don't always understand, but love and suffering meet here and glorify God. So when we come into this church, God gathers all this happening in our lives. Jesus offers it through me to the father and there it sits as redemptive love.
And so as we go about the business of our lives this week, we are called to love as disciples of Jesus Christ. And sometimes it's so hard to love in our world today, but after receiving the Eucharist, we become what we eat and we leave here more godlike, strengthened to keep on working, strengthened to keep on struggling, strengthened to keep on suffering.
Until we come back next week and we offer our lives again. And that's the beauty and the essence of our faith. The glory of the cross and the mystery of salvation. Yes, Jesus told us to love one another. May we offer our imperfect lives, not only in the service of one another but to our very God as well. Amen.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.