“Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in His footsteps.” (1 Peter 2:21)
Suffering– it is part of the human condition, and it also human nature to avoid it whenever possible. Even among those rare souls who “suffer well” by following Christ’s example, suffering can be a seemingly unending trial that wears one down. Illness and suffering “can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God.” (CCC 1501) In times of suffering people could turn to distractions, inward on themselves, or turn their eyes to the Face of Jesus Christ. It is He who suffers, and no one has suffered more than Him. When He took our human flesh at the Incarnation, He accepted all the suffering of humanity, though completely innocent, to redeem us from our sin.
How do we follow in Christ’s footsteps when we are faced with suffering?
“‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth.’
When He was insulted, He returned no insult, when He suffered, He did not threaten; instead, He handed Himself over to the One who judges justly. He Himself bore our sins in His body on the Cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed. For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2: 22-25)
For many though, their suffering may not be a physical one. There is another terrible suffering, experienced worldwide: the separation from our loved ones. And even more painful, the suffering of being separated from “The Loved One,” Jesus, in the sacraments. Again, it is Christ who suffers most, in the Eucharist, isolated in every tabernacle throughout the world.
Perhaps this isolation from loved ones is a warning from Our Loving God of what happens when we turn away from the Face of God by unrepented mortal sin. The result is a painful separation from the love of God for all eternity, which is the suffering of Hell.
What can one do “to suffer with Christ” by staying alone at home? As a Discalced Carmelite nun, St. Edith Stein, contemplated a life of separation from the rest of the world in the cloister. She wrote, “Whoever enters Carmel is not lost to their own, but is theirs fully for the first time; It is our vocation to stand before God for all.” In quarantine each of us may suffer with Jesus by seeking His Christ’s Face with hearts of prayer, as the Blessed Virgin Mary did at the foot of the Cross – “to stand before God for all.”
“For whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil lips, from speaking deceit, must turn from evil and do good, seek peace and follow after it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears turned to their prayer, but the Face of the Lord is against evildoers.” (1 Peter 3:10-12)
Prayer to the Holy Face for the liberation from the coronavirus