Jesus' suffering in the world's peripheries

When will the suffering of the world be diminished? Let us learn from the way of Jesus: he counters suffering with love, transforms his very own death with the glory of his resurrection, and the greatest of all, offers forgiveness beyond the weight of our sinfulness. 

Suffering lurks in the peripheries of the world. People pay the price of war, civil disturbances, economic disparity, terrorism, environmental destruction, tragedies, consumerism, and all others.

The Church speaks of suffering among migrants driven from their homeland because of poverty, hunger, war, and oppression. It speaks of suffering among nations driven by indifference due to wrong notions of ideological ideals. It speaks of suffering among families affected by moral, economic, financial, social, and behavioral crises.

The Church speaks of suffering among peoples driven by hatred because of faith, color, or gender, and inflicted upon the environment for lack of concern for future generations.

The Church speaks of suffering among women who suffer most due to discrimination and sexual abuses. It speaks of suffering of individuals on the streets who have no shelter and food, and persons being killed as a way to curb the drug problem and other social ills. The Church speaks of suffering of the victims of "clerical sexual abuses."

All these are rooted in greed for power, indifference to persons, social injustice, and lack of concern for humanity.

Humanity suffers 

Do I suffer with Jesus? The Holy Week is an opportunity for us to make our suffering real, and to achieve a sense of "fullness" in our Christian journey. The prelude to the death and resurrection of Jesus is the understanding of his life's mission as a "via" of fulfilling the Father's will, through suffering rooted for a greater cause – saving humanity, revealing to mankind the goodness and love of his Father.

Our world needs to counter human suffering with goodness of and for humanity: to demand a just and lasting peace for countries that are internally and externally engaging in wars; to encourage economy of sharing among rich nations with the poor and developing countries; to break the unjust cycle of debt payments and obligations in Third World countries; to encourage social equity instead of promoting capitalist-based economy.

In the end there are still ways and means to transform our greed-driven collective suffering with that of social balance based on justice.

We are not just identifying Jesus' suffering as ours. It is making us discover our sense of mission for a greater purpose: the way of availing ourselves for humanity's suffering; not of solving problems, but rather accompanying people to work and fight for relevance and justice.

Transforming suffering

We cannot escape suffering. Jesus breathed his last in the midst of persecuted followers, restless revolutionaries, pawns of an oppressive regime, and even shadow opportunists. His brutalized body bore the marks of injustice, of spitting and whipping. His soul still wanted to forgive in the midst of suffering. 

While hanging on the cross in the act of fulfilling his mission from his Father, Jesus prayed these words from the Psalms: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34) And yet, his suffering offers transformation in the midst of wailing, hopelessness, and brokenness. This is the meaning of the cross: the path of humanity crossed by the transformative effect of his redeeming love.

We take the suffering of Jesus as ours; his own life is not far from ours. He journeyed through life's pains and struggles. His humanity fully incarnated in ours was not lived in a superhuman environs. Not a mere human likeness, but real as a poor man. He took the hammer and nails, and like any other carpenter, made a living as a handyman in his town – earning a just living, and learning to perfect the craftsmanship of building not only houses but homes. 

Redemptive suffering

His incarnation means both accepting his humanity but also enduring the pain of suffering. He was rejected, persecuted, and sentenced to death with a stain of injustice. Jesus uttered this on his last breath: "It is finished!" (John 19:30) His redeeming death terminated our human death, one that offers hope beyond our human suffering.

Jesus did not expect the glory of his resurrection; it is not the reward of what he died for. It is entirely from the will of the Father.

As a person of mission, he went beyond the opportunities of power and opulence. His revolution was not political. Rather he showed a real revolution based on authentic redemption – freeing people from the bondage of sin and unjust social structures. He engaged violence with the non-violent power of the cross. He sought justice from the authentic interpretation of love. He empowered his disciples not with riches but the richness of service. "God's tangible and powerful love: a love that can be encountered, a love fully revealed in Christ’s passion, death and resurrection..." (Pope Francis, LF, 17)

Love, then, is the redeeming reason for Jesus' suffering. —

Brother Jaazeal "Tagoy" Jakosalem, OAR, is a visual artist and sustainability educator. He studied philosophy, finished his theology in 1999, and has been active with the Climate Reality Project, a global climate movement founded by Nobel Laureate and former US vice president Al Gore.