Monthly Spiritual, March 2007






            How do we see Christ in relation to penance? He had no need of conversion, of metanoia. He emptied himself and took on the form of a slave. He became like us in all things except sin. Though he was always turned towards his heavenly Father, he chose the way of renunciation and suffering, he accepted what was inseparable from the limitations of our human nature, and thus he overcame the powers of evil and transformed the tree of man's shame into the tree of victory.


            St. Augustine puts these words into the mouth of Christ: "I have given you an example. I was hungry, I was thirsty, I was tired, I slept, I was taken prisoner, I was beaten, I was crucified, I was killed. I have spurned all earthly goods to show that they ought to be spurned. I have put up with all earthly evils which I commanded people to put up with...I who created all things became poor too: so that no one who would believe in me would dare to accept praise for earthly riches. I did not want men to make me king, because with humility I was pointing out the path to the lowly, whom pride would have separated from me."     


            While Christ did not have to "turn away from sin" as we do because of our sinfulness, he eagerly embraced the cross and all the suffering it entailed. "I have a baptism with which I am to be baptized, and how I desire that it be accomplished." When he told his apostles that he must suffer and die, Peter said: "Lord, be it far from you”. Jesus replied: "Get behind me Satan, you are a scandal to me, because you saviour not the things that are of God, but the things that are of men."


            St. Paul tells us,"If you live according to the flesh, you shall die: but if by the Spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live." Only on condition that we are made "conformable to the image of his Son, will the Father receive us into life. This means participating in the Passion of Christ, submitting ourselves voluntarily to the discipline of suffering. This is an important part of our conversion, of our life of penance.


            The Passion of Christ is an appeal for co-operation: "I looked for one who would grieve together with me, but there was none", said the prophet. Though few respond, the appeal goes out to many. Penance means putting off the old self and being renewed in the spirit of our mind, and this means sharing in the Passion of Christ. St. Paul says: "If we suffer with Christ, we shall also be glorified with Christ." And he adds: "I will fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ in my flesh, for his body, which is the Church."


            Is something wanting to the sufferings of Christ? No. But to understand the mystery of Christ, we cannot separate him from his Body which is the Church, the People of God. Although all was accomplished in him, our Head, it must now be accomplished in us, the members. He wills to continue his Passion in us, so that we may be associated with him in the work of redemption. Jesus, who could have accomplished his work alone, willed to need us, in order to apply and extend his merits to the whole world.


            Penance, suffering, is a means of being assimilated to Christ crucified, in order to reproduce and prolong his Passion in our own body! "Love makes similitude and equality." One who truly loves has a spontaneous desire to share in the sufferings of the loved one. St. Mary Magdalen of Pazzi says: "It is not fitting to be a delicate member of a Head with thorns and crucified....... nor the unmortified bride of a suffering Spouse."..."God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world" (St.Paul).


            Leaving out the Passion, suffering is an evil, not a good. But taking into account the sufferings of Christ - the foundation and principle of Christian penance and suffering - then suffering is of infinite value. Suffering may not be wasted. It should be gathered up and offered in union with the Passion of Christ. This applies especially to the many difficulties and pains of life which come unbidden, unexpectedly, and which we would never seek ourselves. They are invitations to share in Christ's sufferings, and to turn more completely to him in faith and love.


Carmel Flora OFMCap

National Spiritual Assistant SFO - Oceania




Regional Ministers are requested to distribute this Monthly Messageto all Local Fraternities  in the Regional Fraternity.