By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published March 23, 2017
“You can handle this—don’t have a meltdown,” I told myself as I surveyed the miniature lake on the basement floor.
I quickly discovered the source of the problem—the water heater—then threw towels down and called the plumber, who promised to send someone in early afternoon.
After watching a do-it-yourself Youtube video, I turned off the water supply to the heater, and switched off the gas. Once that was done, I went back upstairs—and assured myself all was well.
Moments later, because of my vivid imagination, I began panicking big time.
You see, I wasn’t sure that I’d turned off the gas correctly. What if it was seeping into the basement? In my mind’s eye, I saw the house going up in a gigantic explosion.
At exactly that moment, the plumber’s truck pulled up outside, and when the men rang the doorbell, I nearly hugged them in relief.
As they headed downstairs, I rummaged in the cookie jar to reward myself with a treat—and then remembered it was Lent.
Still, I closed the lid without a complaint because this year Lent has become another chapter in the love story shared with my husband.
You see, I offer up all my suffering—whether it’s the stress of handling emergencies alone or the craving for sweets—for the repose of his soul.
To me, the belief in redemptive suffering is an especially beautiful part of Catholicism, which contrasts sharply with other religions.
The Hindu doctrine of karma, for example, says a person’s misfortunes result from wrongdoings committed in a past life. Buddhists claim suffering will cease, once we attain a state of non-attachment to this world.
And the prosperity gospel, held by some Protestants, says God rewards faithful people with nice homes and good jobs—which means that if you’re miserable, your faith isn’t strong enough.
The Catholic belief, however, says suffering is certainly not a punishment, since the Son of God underwent an agonizing death as an act of love.
And God can take any evil, sickness or tragedy—and bring good out of it. After all, in Scripture, the worst event imaginable—the crucifixion of Jesus Christ—birthed the miracle of the Resurrection.
On a daily level, we can offer God our crosses—a piercing toothache, a persistent headache, the nausea following chemotherapy—for someone we love.
We can also give God our emotional pain, regret, woundedness and grief. We can ask God to use our suffering to help friends and family, including the souls in purgatory.
As St. John Chrysostom said, “If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died.”
The story of Christ’s Passion reveals that suffering is never meaningless. Scripture assures us Jesus knew what he would endure ahead of time—and went willingly to his death to fulfill the Father’s plan to redeem the world.
As St. Paul would write later, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
Having an awful afternoon at work? Turn this suffering into a prayer for your relative with cancer.
Anxiously awaiting the results of medical exams? Offer up your distress for the soul of your departed friend.
During Lent especially, God can turn our crosses into resurrection; he can transform our pain into prayers.
And through his endless love and mercy, he can help someone like me handle the crisis of a flooded basement without having a meltdown—or a cookie.
Artwork (“Sea of Galilee,” oil painting) by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s email address is email@example.com.