Recently, a loved one of mine has been experiencing relentless pain. It all began with minor aches years ago which have gradually become worse and worse – to the point of interfering with his day to day life. The pain has even affected his ability to get consistent sleep. As you can imagine, this can quickly lead to a vicious cycle.

The problem with pain, it seems, is that it sacks us of our independence and cements the certitude of the fragility of our human condition. In fact, it is this precise point which causes the human soul to feel pain. As creatures in the likeness of God, we are made for eternal glory amid the passing things of earth. Thus, we find ourselves in a constant state of tension – seeking to live the reality of permanent glory now, while enduring the pain and hardship of life encapsulated in the passibility of daily life. It’s no wonder we seek to attach ourselves to so many things like health and happiness, yet constantly find their impermanence in this world.

In Christ’s sorrowful passion, death, and glorious resurrection, though, it is possible to see the transformation of this tension we call pain. In Christ, the eternal one Himself takes on the total passibility of human flesh. By nature of the incarnation, our Lord Himself became the paradigm of the tension of pain. In the most manifest way, this tension is raised up for the world to see in his saving work on the Cross: the God-man dead.

It is in His resurrection, though, that we can begin to see the resolution to the problem of pain. In Christ, there was never a point in which He was not in communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit – even through his most horrific passion and death. Further, there was never a point following His incarnation that His divine life was not in communion with human flesh. In sum, the communion of Christ with the Father, the Holy Spirit, and human flesh is the reality of the resurrection, and ultimately our own humanity being seated at the right hand of the Father.

What does this do in regard to our problem of pain? It necessarily calls us into further communion – with both the Most Holy Trinity and with human flesh – namely, one another.

As is so often experienced, pain seeks with reckless abandon to isolate humanity not only from God, but also from one another. Whether it is the skepticism we experience in ever finding healing, or the emotional isolation resulting from our own unforgiveness of our brothers and sisters, pain can be a reviling rival.

But in the resurrection, Christ Jesus redeems pain and allows it to be transformed in the most ironic way: precisely through vulnerability.

By becoming a tiny a vulnerable Child, Christ united humanity to Himself. By being stripped naked, beaten, and treated as a criminal who was put to death, Christ retained communion with humanity even through death, so that eternal communion with the Father and the Holy Spirit could be restored to human flesh. Most readily, Christ still continues to be with us under the appearance of a tiny piece of bread to be both handled and consumed. It’s not a coincidence we call this Holy Communion.

From this, it seems vulnerability is the very seed through which the final victory of Christ was grown. So, too, should it be with us. If we truly seek to overcome the problem of pain – we must become more vulnerable with both God and one another.

I know it’s ironic, but so too is God becoming man and life being born out of death. The more quickly we present our painful wounds to the Trinity and to one another, the more quickly we will be enabled to grow in communion. And as we have seen so marvelously illustrated in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection – communion is the only permanence offered amid the impermanence of temporal life.

The only reality of heaven on earth, the eternal in the realm of the temporal, is the glorified and vulnerable Christ present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. If we want to share in that impassible glory, we too must become vulnerable so as to enter into His communion.

Christ always offers us this communion.

Please, God, give us the vulnerability to accept it.

  • Phil Alcoceli

    Excellent article that details how the Mystery of Pain and Suffering is infinitely more than just punishment for Adam and Eve’s sin. God’s Punishment’s are also enormous Mercy, Liberation and Growth Tools. To our purely human, sinful minds that sounds grotesque, even sadistic, but the True Catholic Saints, both the Canonized and the much more numerous Anonymous Saints, keep reminding us of how such big insane fools we are to think and feel that way, reasonable as it may sound and feel. Satan points to pain as evidence of God being a vindictive, abusive bully. Saints point to pain as evidence of God’s Mercy.

    Mercy today, because of the Devotions to Divine Mercy, beneficial as they may be, give a partial, distorted picture of God’s Total Plan of Mercy. God’s Mercy does include pain and suffering (and always will until Jesus returns) and that gives us a good fighting chance against Satan’s delusions about this world being all there is and that we are not much more than stray dogs that should better take all the bones (“toys”, pleasure, etc.) that we can grab. If God had not included pain in His Mercy, we could call Him an unmerciful God to His Face, just like ancient pagan parents leaving unwanted, helpless babies to be devoured alive by the beasts in the wilderness (does that sound familiar?).

    As far as relief from pain, which is equally holy to seek, I humbly suggest something called CBD which even though extracted from hemp, it has an ultra low content (0.03%) of the psychoactive, harmful THC (still dumb weed, always dumb weed) which should be submitted to strict FDA scrutiny. The best CBD I’ve found is at: http://www.gainsinbulk.com . It is the most absorbable one, as CBD is not easily absorbed. Straight from God-created nature, will NOT make you high, stupid or agressive (that THC fact is confirmed in serious studies) and will help naturally alleviate your pain. Being very close, prayerful, helpful and loving with those in pain and suffering is, of course, God’s Premium Grade CBD!!

    • Benjamin Smith

      It is true that the passion is about more than the punishment due to sin, but it remains true to say this. Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas, and the Catechism of the Council of Trent teach that Christ offered his death on the Cross in order to satisfy the debt of punishment owed by mankind to divine justice. Of course there are additional things we can and should say about the benefits of the passion and cross, but the perspective of divine justice is often neglected. God mercifully paid for the debt of punishment demanded by His justice.

      • Phil Alcoceli

        Very dear Brother Benjamin, thank you for your contribution! Your comment is true and solid from beginning to end, head to tail, word by word. We need more Catholics like you that see God’s True Reality above the hellish noise of Propaganda Fabricated False Realtiy. You may have noticed that I don’t compromise with any of that after being a part of it but fight against it with God’s Grace (just like my favorite Saint, St. Paul), but you do have a point that needs to be clarified. I don’t want to turn God’s Pure, Just, Fair, Holy Wrath and Punishment into a New Age-ish, Protestant-ish, therapeutic, cozy version of what it really is. Never!!

        God’s punishments sting, burn, hurt and sometimes make us scream. Our ego has to be crucified. We are on this Earth for self-denial not self-fulfillment. Punishment is punishment and the Hell horror that was awaiting us so deservedly was taken by Jesus up to the Cross. I thank Him every day for that, literally. You and I have no problem understanding that, and that it still means God is Infinitely Good and Just, but the audience here in this blog is mixed and I want to reach them. God wants all men and women to be saved.

        Even for us, like the Saints tell us again and again and again, it’s very good and very powerful to remember that His punishments are mixed with True Mercy (Real Mercy, not Sentimentalist Complicit Mercy). For an example, when I worked with inmates, they even told me that, in contrast with some of the other staff, they were very willing to take my corrections and punishments because they “knew who they came from and that I truly cared about them very much”. After being freed, a few came back to thank me and told me that their lives were much better lived. That blessed them but it blessed me a thousand times more for the rest of my life. I imaged God’s Holy Justice to them and them back to me. We are all sin’s immates and no different when it comes to our relationship with God in Correctional Facility Earth. Praise be to God!!