“They go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing
They come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves” (Psalm 126)
These lines from our responsorial psalm this Sunday speak about the fruitfulness of suffering properly embraced. Joy and suffering are often linked in the New Testament. Fr Jeffrey Kirby, STD explains the spiritual logic behind this seeming paradox:
“In choosing to be happy, we must accept suffering. Some believe that suffering destroys our chance of happiness, but when it’s accepted in the right spirit, suffering purifies and intensifies happiness. We’re all willing to suffer for what we love; a priest is willing to accept hardship for his parish, spouses for one another, parents for their children, leaders for those in their charge, and good citizens for the causes of justice and peace.
It may be difficult to hear, but suffering is a prerequisite to happiness in a fallen world. We must be willing to suffer, to truly die to ourselves, our passions, our self-centredness, our sense of justice, our desire for comfort and ease, and our perception of what the world should be in order to truly find and live in the kingdom of happiness. Properly understood, suffering can be an enduring teacher, a tempered comforter, and a source of perseverance along the way to happiness.
Our human experience provides us with a full panorama of examples that convey this truth. Think about:
* The husband and father who is terminally ill, suffering from his medical treatments and knowing that he will leave his family soon, and yet is joyful because he knows that he has today with his family, that heaven is real, and that he has the opportunity to show his children how to live and die with grace.
* The single mother who works two jobs, suffers from standing on her feet throughout the day, barely makes ends meet, has no support, and yet is joyful because she’s doing it all for her kids.
* The husband who has to work each night to support his family but prays hard for the energy and will he needs to not only provide for his family but be there for them as well, and finds happiness knowing his labours are a necessary part of life but don’t have to rob him of family joys
* The young adult who loses friends and becomes an outcast because he chooses not to partake in certain thrills and frivolities, and yet is happy; because of the knowledge that his good choices will bring about true friends in the future.
* And you …what is your experience? What has overtaken your soul and robbed you of your happiness?
(Kingdom of Happiness, pp.xxi- xxii)