Today we celebrate Jesus, the suffering Messiah. He is the one of whom Isaiah foretold: “My face I did not shield from buffets and spitting. He is the Christ who took the form of a slave, ... obediently accepting even death, death on a cross.” He is the savior who “suffered willingly for sinners” and whose suffering makes us pleasing to God.
We all suffer in our own way. We experience physical pain and hardship. We suffer watching our friends and relatives suffer. We are often offended or abandoned by others, and we add to our suffering by our own sinfulness.
The world around us is filled with suffering: the victims of war and poverty; people living in streets or in shantytowns; starving children; lonely elderly; people dying of AIDS, cancer, or some other disease.
Today’s liturgy teaches us “to welcome our suffering,” to bear witness to God by following Christ’s example of suffering. We pray that the world “united with him in his suffering on the cross may share his resurrection and new life.”
Had Jesus merely said that his mission was to set people free from sin and all forms of oppression, his words would have fallen on deaf ears. He had to work at this task of liberation. He not only talked about freeing the poor and oppressed but, undeterred by criticism, actually welcomed the poor and sinners to share at his table. Like Jesus, we must be able to accompany others in their suffering and be willing to suffer with them.
U.S. Bishops, To the Ends of the Earth, 1986, 48.