by José de Vinck.
Perhaps after his message about love, the most astounding revelation Christ made to the pagan world was his message about pain.
Without that message, pain is simply something to be avoided by any means. The will fears it; the body shrinks from it. So a painless life is, for many, a seemingly ideal life.
What then, is the message of Christ, the new name he gave pain that changed it from a scourge into a blessing? That new name is “atonement.”
All of Christ’s life was an example of Christian perfection, and most of it was a life of pain: the pain of labor, humiliation, thirst and hunger, misunderstanding, persecution, torture, and death.
On the human level, the life of Christ was a total failure—the pitiful story of a man who achieved no worldly success, a man who, in fact, ended his life on the gallows.
In the light of atonement, however, the life of Christ was the greatest triumph in all of history: the transformation of pain into the power that flung open the gates of heaven to those who had been barred from them by original sin.
And in its own small way, our pain is a sharing in this power, a participation in the sacrifice of Calvary, a sacrifice which is going on until the end of time—for as long as there is human life and human sin, there is a need for redemption.
Like Christ and with Christ we can offer our pain, whatever it is, as expiation for our sins and the sins of the whole world. Our pain can be the coin that brings sinners back to the Father, the coin that makes them “at one” with him.
Not that there is an obligation to seek pain. No. It comes to us effortlessly and in plentiful abundance.
However, if one is seeking to follow Christ, to live “the way of perfection,” there is an obligation to accept pain as it comes and to transmute it into the gold of penance.
And so, let us consider all our privations and sacrifices, all our disappointments and sorrows, as gifts that rise on the altar of God, gifts that he receives like the rising of incense for the salvation of souls.
Adapted with permission from José de Vinck, Alleluia Press, Allendale, NJ 07401.
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