Today’s excerpt from the Acts of the Apostles indicates that St. Paul’s missionary adventures were hardly a walk in the park. Saint Paul suffered terribly for the sake of Christ and the Church and this suffering was not just being bereft at times of emotional consolation, but real, physical torment.
All this Saint Paul endured. Why?
Look at the cross and you can discern the answer.
The cross of Jesus Christ indicates that God can transform suffering through love. Christ accepts suffering, not only his own, but that of the whole world, and through his willingness to love, he imbues his suffering with the potential to heal and to liberate, to save and to redeem.
This is a great mystery and we could not of our own will effect this kind of transformation, but through Christ, with Christ and in Christ, God can act to imbue our own suffering with his love, and in his will transform it just as he transformed his own.
Saint Paul endured many sufferings for the sake of his mission because he trusted in faith that the love of God was such that his own suffering could become a means of revealing Christ’s love. This conviction, born of his faith in Christ, enabled him to endure much for the sake of his mission.
No one who accepts a mission from Christ, as St. Paul did, will be exempt from suffering. We will only be able to endure that suffering, if we allow ourselves, as St. Paul did, to trust that the love of God that transforms us and transforms the world, can transform our sufferings as well.
In his Gospel, Christ likens the advent of his Kingdom to a woman in labor, struggling with all her might to give birth. Christ intends this as an image of his Church.
It is the purpose of the Church to give birth to Christians. The Church is not merely an institution or faith based social service agency. The Church is a mother, whose relationship with Christ is meant to be fruitful and productive. If a particular Church, like a parish or a diocese, is not fruitful and productive, something has gone wrong.
The purpose of all the endeavors of the Church’s life, are not just to satisfy our faith based needs, but instead to create more Christians.
Christ gives his life to his Church to generate more life. What are we doing to help the Church in her mission of creating more Christians?