Mangaluru, April 1, 2018: Suffering is part of the natural order for humans in this universe. At all levels in nature we see the struggle for survival, growth and decay, emergence of new life and a return to earth of what is biodegradable. Lacking the machinations of a mind, the order of creation just below humans does not cry out in anguish at its loss and destruction. Its passing away or transformation when it occurs, takes place often unnoticed, but always without complaint. Death and destruction is never “avenged”.
The emergence of human intelligence brought with it a sense of control of nature and the ability to control to some extent one’s own course of life. But with it also came the ability to look upon the whole of one’s life as a personal asset to be preserved, to see deprivation as a personal loss, to avenge a perceived wrong. With the human mind came the concept of “victim” hitherto unknown in creation.
Suffering came to be seen as punishment, sickness was often considered to be a consequence of sin.
But more importantly not only did humans experience “victimhood”, they also learnt to victimise others. We create a Drama Triangle that consists of persecutor, victim and rescuer. It has invaded all forms of human relationships.
It is in this context that the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus assume importance. Christians celebrate this Sacred Triduum, culminating with Easter as its high point. Tragically, it is often the case that many stop at the suffering Christ, sympathise with his pain and anguish and think that we are called to imitate him in the silent endurance of injustice, exploitation and a host of other issues. But, Jesus in this whole episode, has not done away with suffering; he transformed it. Suffering is not synonymous with victimhood. Victimhood is a product of the ego.
Freed from the influence of one’s ego it is therefore perfectly possible to suffer and yet not be a victim.
This is the death to self that Jesus invites us to. We are called to return to the original meaning of the word “suffer”. When our ego is no longer the victim, we opt out of the Drama Triangle and thus break the cycle of reprisals, vendetta and vengeance that so often colour our fight against injustice. It has been aptly said that suffering not transformed, is suffering transmitted.
The first of Jesus’s seven last words as he hung on the cross is, “Father, forgive them”. Forgiveness is not the denial of hurt, wrongdoing, injustice and exploitation. Rather, by accepting our own inner pain, we choose not to let it influence our response to the present situation. By not being victims ourselves, we also pre-empt the possibility of making others, victims in return. The imbalance is restored byequals, among equals. We now have the freedom to accept and accommodate others within the context of our inevitable human limitations. The energy locked in our victimhood is released for our own good and that of others.
Despite the inevitable “suffering”, the world is still a better place as a result. The Resurrection of Jesus is not so much a physical phenomenon, but a spiritual reality that we are all called to experience. May we experience beyond the contrdsadictions and suffering of this passing world, the reality of our own transformation in the Risen Christ who endures forever.