During my time as a Franciscan Friar, a priest named Fr. Stan Fortuna wrote a song called “Everybody Gotta Suffer.” Fr. Stan is very talented in his music and his ministry. The song is catchy and I often think of how he sings the word, “Everybody.” It reminds me that rich and poor alike are all on the same journey to Heaven. The song reminds us that this journey is one that passes through the gate of suffering, and no one escapes this necessary way of getting to Heaven.
In one of the Gospel Acclamations we hear that “Jesus Christ was rich, but he became poor for your sake, to make you rich out of his poverty.” In short, God became one of us, so that we might become like him. When we break this down even further, we see that Jesus is God coming to take fallen humanity by the hand, and lead us back to Heaven. We will be cleansed, redeemed, purified and forever have a share in His glory. However you put it, we become like Him!
The only catch here is that Jesus shows us that the door to Heaven is in the shape of a Cross.
In Scripture, we have been admonished that we “can’t serve two masters, both God and mammon,” and Christ reminds us in the Gospel of Matthew that it is “easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of Heaven.” Why all this criticism of riches? Doesn’t God give us reason and talents to use and not bury?
The problem is that we tend to cling to things of this world because we think they make us happy. If we have a lot of things that make us happy – even good things like relationships – we believe we can control our own experience of happiness.
In reality, we are very much not in control of the way things go in the world; that is the type of power that belongs to God alone. However, it can become very easy to believe that we are in control when we have a lot of resources available to us. You don’t have to be rich to fall into this illusion.
When we feel like we are in control, we don’t need any help. When we don’t need any help, we don’t acknowledge that someone else is in control - we don’t reach out, we don’t worship. This is the fallen human condition: to be closed off from receiving what God has for us as a Father who takes care of his children. We close ourselves off instead of opening ourselves up. Worshipping God is a position of openness to Him that allows us to be the children that we are, and receive all that the Father has for us.
Suffering, whether great or small, can be an opportunity to recognize that we are not in control. Anytime we suffer anything, we can look for a way to grow in trust of God. We can grow just a little more in our disposition of openness to Him.
The more we let Him be the Father, the more we become like the Son, and the more we allow Him to lead us to Heaven. This is why "everybody gotta suffer." As we enter into this season of Lent, let’s try to understand suffering a little more and grow in our trust of God.