Today, I would like to talk about the reality of injustice and suffering in light of the Paschal Mystery, especially the Eucharist. This is an unescapable reality and hard topic to have a discourse because no one likes it. Nevertheless, no matter how much we try, none of us can seem to avoid suffering, even the rich and powerful. Even though the privileged might not experience the typical struggles like we do on the outside, they tend to be stricken by psychological and emotional sufferings. Why? Because, as human beings, most of us vainly “suffer” from not having enough and never getting what we thought we want.
On top of that, it is futile to expect a perfect world and society because we all (still) bear the vestiges of original sin that leaves us broken, and oftentimes, self-centered instead truly embracing true agape love. Injustices happen because we tend to do things our ways, hence often end up hurting others instead of truly caring for them for their sakes. On top of that, we are finite and limited in our understanding of reality so, even with our best intentions, we cannot understanding the whole situation and know the full matters at hand, which could cause suffering or injustice to others who are involved. Therefore, if we begin and end, try to seek assurances, and expecting too much from human beings, we will always end up being unhappy and empty deep from within. That is why our brokenness and its reality, even its creative and painful tensions, invite us to seek something higher and transcendental. All the failures and limitations of this world lead us to contemplate on the Paschal Mystery and His manifestation of true love for humanity.
A few years back when we were in quarantine for the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, I stumbled upon a short Turkish movie named, Miracle in Cell Number 7. To be fair, this is an emotional movie that will pull your heartstrings; however, I do think it has a beautiful message so I would like to share a little bit of it with you.
This is the story about a special need man who wrongly got accused of the homicide of a high-ranking official’s daughter. Since he did not have the intellectual and verbal capacity to defend himself, he was sentenced to death by a quick trial motivated and pushed forward by the official and his colleagues. Ironically, this poor man incurred immense injustice because of the official’s desire to justly punish the man whom he thought killed his daughter. It is a heart-wrenching story and brought many tears for me because I can relate (from my past) of what it means to be wrongly accused and cannot defend yourself, especially when someone who is more powerful is making sure you remain silenced. Nonetheless, before his execution, one of his cellmates traded his life so that this innocent man can have a fresh start (with a new life) with his young daughter far away.
I cried so much because of the injustices but also because of the beautiful act of self-donating, sacrificial love for someone who is innocent. Hence, as Christians, we know very well of Someone who willingly died for us so that we might have life. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ chose to die for us when we rejected Him. Our sinful and broken humanity — represented by those who were in power — condemned Him to death because He was deemed as an enemy. This included those who betrayed, hid, and rejected him out of cowardice, too.
Unlike royals or powerful people who would rather extend clemency or forgive their subordinates or subjects so they would not be too bothered, dirty their hands, or waste too much of their time, the Lord chose to die for His subjects. As the Almighty and King of the Universe, He could have easily forgiven and restored us with a simple desire of His will, but He wanted to personally show us that we are worth of loving, redeeming, and saving, even if it meant the very death of Himself.
Jesus offered Himself up as expiation for our sins, being both the Priest and Victim of His very self-giving, sacrificial gift for humanity. When we were still sinners, hated ourselves and Him, He chose to die so that we might have life! As the Priest of the New Covenant, He offered the one and eternal sacrifice for all. As the spotless Lamb and Victim of the sacrifice, He offered His very own self on the altar of the Cross for us.
I want you to see this very unimaginable reality that could only be thought and brought to completion by the very God who loves us… Not only did He chose to die for us, He also chose not to take any shortcuts! He embraced all the tortures, false accusations, betrayals, afflictions, pains, and sufferings every step of the way because His love for us is that very personal, self-giving, and sacrificial gift. We, therefore, literally, meant the whole universe for Him! He willed to suffer and die for us as to pay for our sins, as well as all the wrongs we have done against our Creator and others in the past, present, and future, for the sake of love. Without a doubt, the Lord in His self-giving, sacrificial gift has shown and given us the real and personal example of what it means to love.
Therefore, as His disciples who bear His name, we are called to receive and put into practice the same sacrificial love in words and actions, life and deeds as well. To love others is not always easy, especially if they have done things that hurt us personally, yet true love gives us freedom and liberation from hatred and the things that kill us from within. It is not easy to forgive those who have done us wrong or choose to give ourselves to those whom we have deemed unfit or not worthy of our love. It is extremely hard to choose to love and forgive because they are all personal, intimate, and life-giving actions both for ourselves and others. In the midst of many wrongs, we can choose to go along with what everyone else is doing, give up because we cannot change the course of actions, and become part of the game of manipulation… or we can choose to act with prudence and wisdom, respond with both justice and truth, especially to offer what others cannot dare to dream of as Christians in light of our Savior’s own love.
The world is not always just and we do not always have everything right and as we desired, but we can choose to be just, truthful, kind, compassionate, caring, and forgiving. In the world where many people want to seek what is best for them, do everything that they can to assert their authority, and manipulate others in order to get their version of “justice” as true, we are called to be Christlike in words and actions, with our very own ways of life that choose to do what is right in His loving truth. Jesus reminds us that He understands what it means to be betrayed, forgotten, abandoned, ignored, and thrown out. Even in our darkest moments and hardest trials, we are not alone. We are never alone!
Every time we come to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, we are being reminded of this eternal, life-giving, and loving gift of Jesus Christ for us. We are actually reliving what had happened on Golgotha over two thousand years ago in an unbloodied way! The same sacrifice of the Savior is enlivened when the words of the Institution of the Eucharist are said. At each and every Mass, we are being reminded that our Lord loves us very much — until the very end. We are reminded that we are worth saving, worth redeeming, worth dying for, and worth loving! The King of the Universe laid down His life so that we can be reconciled with God and forgiven of our sins because of His death was the expiation for all the offenses done against the Almighty, especially to have eternal life as adopted sons and daughters through His Blood.
Furthermore, at each and every Mass, He continues to nourish us through the Sacred Scriptures as we hear the Old and New Testament readings being read to us so we can understand how He prepared for the greatest sacrifice throughout salvation history. When we hear the Word of God being proclaimed, we are reminded of His faithfulness even at times we had turned against Him in the past. When we hear His words being proclaimed at Mass, His living words continue to speak to us as they were in the past. Furthermore, the greatest words we hear at Mass are the words of our Lord Himself, who said, “This is my Body… This is my Blood… given up for you.” What sweeter words and reality can we ever thought to experience than to have the foretaste of heaven at each and every Mass?!? In an undeserving but loving way, God personally chooses and makes Himself truly present with us right then and there! Hence, if we are not ecstatic to be in His living presence, being nourished by His words of love and with His very own self, there is nothing else that could ever really satisfy us… then eternal life would be hellish (for it is the everlasting contemplation of God).
The love of God gives us consolation and strength to bear all wrongs, injustices, pains, and sufferings of this world because we are not alone in our struggles, wrong bearings, and misunderstandings. We can unite our trials and hardships with the Lord Jesus Christ out of love for Him and as expiation, prayer, and offering for those who are in need, those who have no one to pray for them, for those are about to give up on life or contemplating suicide, the good of the world or the poor souls in purgatory. Our sufferings are not meaningless because we do not suffer alone! We can unite everything that we are going through with the Lord, just as He united all of His trials, hardships, sufferings, and anguishes to His Father, through the power and working of the Holy Spirit, for our salvation.
Sufferings are simply an inevitable part of our human weaknesses caused by the Fall. In itself, it is neither intrinsically good or bad — many times, just a result of other people or our very own failures — because we can still hurt others even with our best intentions. However, because of our Lord‘s example of redemptive suffering as He embraced all wrongdoings and misunderstandings for the love of us through the Paschal Mystery, our very lives and their mysteries (what are happening beyond our control and understanding) are not meaningless or useless if we unite everything we have out of love for Him.
Trials and sufferings can lead one into the rabbit hole of despairs and hellish existence very fast. Nonetheless, even in the midst of our hardships, we are not alone, and the Lord had given us a real example of what it means to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. Furthermore, the saints have also taught us how to embrace misunderstandings, false accusations, hardships, and others’ wrongdoings for the love of Him who first loves us. We, therefore, can humbly and genuinely come to the Lord saying, “Lord, I dislike this right now. I personally don’t want this to happen. If it can be taken away, I ask for that; but if not, grant me the strength to drink the cup you’ve given to me. I unite myself to you wholly and completely, offering everything that I’m going through for those who are in need of my prayer and of You, for the greater good of the world, for those who have no one to pray for them, especially the poor souls in purgatory.”
May God give you peace and grant you strength.