THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Her Doctrine and Morals
28 January 2018
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Labor is very much related to pain or suffering, and burdens or difficulties are essentially associated with work. Our entire lives here on earth are given us to work out our eternal salvation. Labor or work is equivalent, for our purposes here, to suffering and pain. There is a mystery connected to pain and suffering that is difficult for our frail minds to understand. While we cannot say that suffering is pleasurable, we can often find joy in suffering. This joy is often inseparable from pain.
Our fallen nature often confuses pleasure and joy; and this is how we are led into sin. We seek joy, but accept the desire for pleasure instead. Briefly, we may consider that pleasure is a physical or bodily experience; and joy is a spiritual experience. The two are not incompatible with each other; but they are not the same nor are they interchangeable. To the degree that our souls are superior to our bodies, so must the pursuit of joy (happiness) be superior to the pursuit of pleasure.
In avoiding work we are essentially seeking to avoid pain or suffering of some kind. However, as long as we live in these physical bodies of ours, we must work, or suffer some pain or inconvenience. It is only with the grace of God that can we truly appreciate the Wisdom and Beauty of this. There is an evil spirit that tempts us to question the Will of God, when we lament the necessity of our laboring or suffering. Many become filled with indignation with God because "innocent" babies, children, and disabled adults must suffer. We are asked, "What did they do to deserve this?" If we cannot appreciate the value of suffering in our own lives, we will never be able to appreciate it in the lives of others.
Physical suffering allows us to see more clearly the ills within our own souls. And this directs our hearts and minds towards seeking eternal happiness rather than temporary physical pleasure. Even in the "innocents" of this world we see the preparation for greater glory in Heaven. What is truly amazing, and is a source of great instruction for us all, is the fact that the suffering of children or of the mentally challenged is often accompanied by unexplainable joy or happiness. We are shocked to see such joy in the faces of those in this world that have much greater pain or suffering than we do. In the children's hospitals there are often more smiles upon the faces of suffering children than there are on the faces of healthy parents or adults. We truly have much to learn about pain and happiness from these beautiful souls.
In seeking pleasure, we are trying to avoid labor, pain, and suffering. However, the bodily pleasures are often accompanied by spiritual sorrows. The pleasures of this world, when pursued for their own sake prove to be shallow and empty. The experiences of all of mankind can give testimony of this. The wise man in the Old Testament likewise, declares this to us when, after running after all these physical pleasures, he declares them to be "vanity of vanity and all is vanity. They are nothing more than a chase after the wind." (Ecclesiastes) When we are able to grant our insatiable passions more than they can consume, we are soon filled with weariness, disgust, and self-loathing. The pleasure brings about unimaginable spiritual pain.
Jesus has made suffering a kind of sacramental by His own willingness to Sacrifice Himself for us. Pain and suffering allow us to unite ourselves with Him. When this is done willingly and lovingly on our parts, we find the greatest consolations and joys. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read that after having suffered very much, the Apostles came forth rejoicing because they were found worthy to suffer these things in the Name of Jesus Christ. We also see in the lives of the martyrs and saints a miraculous ability to be happy and joyful while simultaneously suffering intense physical pain.
Our lives are directed through the Church (the Mystical Body of Christ) to union with the Life of Christ. We are to strive after the goal of saying with St. Paul: "It is no longer I, but Christ living within me." (Galatians 2:20) In this world Jesus lived a life of work, pain, and suffering; and when we enter into these things in imitation of Him when we follow closely in His footsteps taking up our daily cross and lovingly following Him; we soon become One with Him. In this we find the greatest joy, even while we are enduring intense pain or suffering.
There is a Divine Plan that tells us that physical suffering, pain, and work are all necessary so that we can die to ourselves for, only by dying to ourselves can we live in Christ. Living in Christ is the only real happiness. With the sacrifice of our lives here on earth we merit eternal life in Heaven. Jesus has made this clear when He says that: "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it." (St. Matt. 16:25)
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