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Updated: Sep 21, 2020

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What to listen for in today’s Bible readings

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew chapter 16, Jesus speaks to his disciples about his inevitable passion, death, and resurrection. Therein, Jesus speaks to the reality of suffering that accompanies authentic discipleship. This theme is introduced in the first reading from the Prophet Jeremiah, especially the last paragraph. As you read Peter’s response to suffering, ask yourself: How do you feel about suffering?

This weekend's message in one sentence:

There is hope in suffering, not despite suffering

A. We have much to be grateful for

  • 1.5 million: Number of people displaced or evacuated because of Hurricane Laura

  • 910,000: Total number of customers who lost electricity during the storm

  • 150 mph: Maximum sustained winds at landfall

  • 65 mph: Increase of maximum sustained winds within a single 24-hour period; Hurricane Laura is tied for the fastest-intensifying storm on record in the Gulf of Mexico

  • 938 millibars: Hurricane Laura’s minimum central pressure at landfall; third lowest in Louisiana history

  • 15 feet: Recorded storm surge at landfall. Consider this: Water weighs 8.4 pounds per gallon (multiplied by) 15 foot tall storm surge (estimated 10 feet deep (multiplied by) 48 foot wide (average width of house/camp in Grand Isle) (equals) 60,480 pound wall of water moving at 15 MPH

  • $25 billion: Early estimates of damage due to Hurricane Laura

B. Common experience with suffering

  • We feel powerless

  • We feel trapped

  • We want to escape

  • We seek to blame

C. The most commonly asked question at a funeral: “Why?”

  • When we are out of control we instinctively grasp for something we can control, such as an answer.

  • Baptist Pastor Sonny Boyd: “If I had the answer to that question we’d still be at a funeral. You don’t really want an answer, you really want your son. An answer won’t give you that.”

D. God’s response

  • “Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer greatly” (Matthew 16:13)

E. Suffering “versus” a God of love?

  • God does not need us. The only logical reason He made us is because He desires us.

  • You have to want to love in order to authentically love.

  • God freely chose to suffer. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again.” (John 10:18)

  • God knows suffering. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15)

  • One’s capacity for suffering is directly proportionate to one’s capacity for authentic love.

F. Hope is more influenced by memory than it is experience

  • Remember, God is not bound by time. He sees our future when sometimes all we see is our present.

  • Remember, God is not bound by circumstance. He sees a purpose when all we see is our suffering.

  • Remember, God is not bound by darkness. He sees us whenever we can’t see Him.Remember, God is not bound by desire. He sees what where we are headed when sometimes all we see is where we are.

  • Remember, God is not bound by perspective. He sees what where we are headed forever when sometimes all we see is where we are temporarily.

G. Suffering and life

  • We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love.

  • Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi no. 37

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