THE SCHOOL OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
PARTNERSHIP WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT: SUFFERING
Rev. Fr. John-MARY Benedict Ntol Atep
“Above all the graces and gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ gives to His friends, is that of conquering oneself and willingly enduring sufferings, insults, humiliations, and hardships for the love of Christ.” – St. Francis of Assisi
Suffering is the corollary of witnessing in the Holy Spirit. An immediate example is that of Paul and Silas. While they were witnessing in the name of the Lord, they were attacked by the crowds in Philippi. But through the power of the Holy Spirit, they were delivered (Acts 16:22-34). Thus, it is not difficult to reflect on the role of the Holy Spirit in our suffering experiences as there are numerous instances in Sacred Scriptures. Meaning, as we partner with the Holy Spirit in witnessing, we should prepare for an ordeal (Sir. 2:1).
Still about suffering, there are different kinds – physical, mental/psychological, emotional and moral sufferings. There are experiences of life that could connect all or some of the kinds of suffering we have just identified. For instance, we are ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic that is a summation of all the forms of suffering. Therefore, we do not need to take for granted the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, there are many interpretations for the coronavirus pandemic. What is your own interpretation? Other realities of suffering in our midst are mortal sins, addictions, criminal activities, illnesses, diseases, poverty, hunger, heartbreak, frustration, loneliness, grief and death.
There is a significant relationship between the Holy Spirit and suffering. Meaning, the Holy Spirit relates with human suffering. Hence, Jesus says, “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes he will convict the world in regard to sin and righteousness…” (John 16:7-8). After Jesus’ death and resurrection, His Spirit-filled disciples and followers were persecuted and murdered for righteousness’ sake (Acts 6:8-8:1). But they remained resilient because of the Holy Spirit. It just goes to show that the Holy Spirit properly embraced and allowed to inform our spiritual life, we can live in the Holy Spirit and apply what is called spiritual therapy in every suffering experience.
It is pertinent to note that suffering as a reality depends on our attitude and understanding of it and how we handle or manage it in life. For some people it may be useful and for some it may be useless. For us in the school of the Holy Spirit, the Spiritual therapy offers us the following: It begins with a simple decision of the will to see suffering as one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). In many biblical text, two synonyms reflect suffering as a fruit of the Holy Spirit: patience and longsuffering. Give meaning to your suffering experiences and live. To give meaning means to find or give reasons why we suffer and why we should live because of such experience. In addition, let us learn to offer our suffering in the spirit of St. Paul: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24).
Reflective Questions on suffering
- What is your notion of suffering as one who witnesses in the Holy Spirit?
- How can we search for good in crisis moments like the coronavirus pandemic?
- How can we be resilient or go beyond resilience in our suffering experiences?
- How can the Holy Spirit help me to make good use of my worst situations in life?
St. Louis-Marie de Montfort counsels: “Whenever you receive any cross, always welcome it with humility and gratitude. And when God favours you with a cross of some importance, show your gratitude in a special way, and get others to thank him for you. Follow the example of the poor woman who lost all that she had in an unjust law-suit and immediately offered her few remaining coins to have a Mass said in thanksgiving for her good fortune.”
I am praying for you, please pray for me. Thank You!