Do you ever wonder what St. Paul means when he says that he is making up in his own flesh whatever is lacking in the sufferings of Christ? I always thought that was kind of arrogant. After all, didn’t Christ’s suffering pay the price, once and for all, and fulfill all the justice of God tempered with God’s great mercy? So what could be lacking in the perfect sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ?
Well, of course, the one thing that is lacking in Christ’s sufferings is our participation in it. Don’t forget that we are all the Body of Christ. That doesn’t just refer to the Sacrament we receive, nor is it a cute Church-jargon way of referring to the Church itself. Christ gave his body and blood for us, and so we too have become parts of his body. And as parts of his body, we must share in the bodily suffering that he endured for our sake.
So we may have to suffer persecution for doing good, as Jesus did in today’s Gospel reading. And we may have to suffer the pains of illness. And we may have to suffer the loss of loved ones. We may have to endure sadness and pain on many levels. When we do, we can do so with the attitude of joining our sufferings to those of Christ and thus making up whatever may have been lacking in Christ’s own suffering.
When we join our sufferings to Christ, we know that he is there with us. And though the suffering may remain, there can be a peace that comes from knowing that we are in God’s hands. The Psalmist says it best for us this morning:
Only in God be at rest, my soul,
for from him comes my hope.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed.