"Are you a king? The man thus addressed hardly looked like a king, at least not like the popular image of a king. He stood in the worn drab garments of a peasant. His wrists were bound behind His back with stiff rope, while below, on the crowded streets, His subjects clamoured for His death.
He squared His shoulders and, facing His accusers, He spoke in a voice resounding with authority. "You are right, I am a king. For this I came into the world: that I should give testimony to the truth". Pilot answered with the voice of our time. "What is truth?" Had he waited for an answer he might have learned something, but his question was a sneer. The sneer of the materialist dismissing all of that not of man's fashioning.
And so it is that history records the king stumbling toward His throne, toward His cross. He was clothed, by this time, in the royal purple of a discarded robe with a matching crown of thorns. And then He held court, this king, He held court on the Hill of Skulls and there echoed from His parched throat the strangest battle cry ever heard..."Father forgive them for they know not what they do!"
A king unworthy of His kingdom? No! Rather, let us say, a kingdom unworthy of its king. To all but a few, Jesus was a king or at least a potential king, who had failed. After all, He had led no Hebrew army to victory over the hated Roman oppressors. What He had done was to incur the jealous enmity of the Jewish leaders and, in consequence, had suffered the most ignoble of deaths.
And yet He is a king and we are His subjects. For if He failed in the eyes of men, it was to earn eternal victory in the eyes of The Father.
Jesus Christ suffered and died to gain, for us, a victory which can be compared to no other. The kingdom He won for us is an everlasting one, the nature of which is to exist in our hearts and minds so that, at the appointed time, we may be found worthy to exist in it for all eternity. The price of this victory was and continues to be, suffering.
Much has been said and written about the mysterious nature of suffering. Some of that mystery evaporates in the light of Revelation. We all know that pain is sometimes necessary and of considerable value when, for example, it warns of far more serious problems to which we then respond with medical or surgical procedures.
Pain can also be the price we are willing to pay in order to bring about a greater good such as would be the case if we suffered burns while saving someone from a fire. But what of the pain that so often accompanies old age and disability? What of the pain of loneliness or of unrequited love or the pain of arthritis and cancer and dementia? How about the pain suffered by the loving caregiver who feels helpless and heartbroken? All examples of pain that we often label as being senseless, cruel and undeserved. Can we not include in this category the pain Jesus felt during His Passion and death; from His deep-seated fear in the Garden of Gethsemane to His last tormented breath?
But, you will say, Jesus chose to suffer and die this way. He was a willing lamb led to the slaughter! You are right!
Jesus chose to suffer because He believed suffering to be the most powerful expression of loving commitment. When He chose to live on, in and through us, He gave our suffering the same potential. This means that I have the option of cursing my pain and suffering as being unfair, useless and whatever else or I can consciously associate with Jesus, not only in His charity and His truth, but also in His suffering. Remember that Jesus has chosen to intimately identify with each one of us. "I am the vine, you are the branches."...."Whatever you do for the least of humanity, you do for me."......Take and eat, this is my body....this is my blood."
What all this means is that you can consciously link your suffering to that of Jesus. Your suffering can have the same value as His. In other words, You can be part of the whole Divine plan of salvation.
Can it happen without you? Yes, but it would be somehow less complete...your active presence is requested. Your baptism was your formal invitation. I am convinced that suffering might well be the most important thing I do in my lifetime.
A tortured heart that remains committed to the Father is the truest image of the Redeemer who is Christ our King.