Suffering with Christ as Model
by Deacon Thomas Frankenfield
Continuing our Journey
Thanks to all who continue to respond to these reflections. I am graced by your comments and prayers. This past week I received a few emails discussing particular applications of community support and loving people who are reaching out and helping those in trouble.
I understand that it can get very complicated when one suddenly experiences an unexpected life change like being left unemployed or sacked. In this time of stress, it is very natural to look at our flawed nature and project blame on ourselves. As we all know, keeping pain inside can have debilitating influences on an individual. As a rule, most pain and suffering issues will eventually be needed to be dealt with or else over time the pain will be such a burden on the person that it could lead to elements of depression and in extreme case fatalities.
One friend is currently taking medication because she is keeping her struggles with a teen age son to herself. Charges in her behaviors are visible to all of us that care. She has distanced herself from our parish community events and the few times she does join in she is often sitting alone.
As we continue to journey with the topic of pain and suffering, it is always important to continue to underscore of how God works though the entire Body of Christ to heal, reconcile and comfort us. Thus, our separation prevents opportunities for healing.
The Pain of Alcohol and Drug Abuse
Still another of reader reminded me of the effects of drug and alcohol abuse and the great pain and suffering it causes families. Without doubt, in Western cultures the affects of drug and alcohol abuse are staggering.
Hurts are everywhere and without Jesus we don’t really have hope. But as we find so often in pastoral ministry that the story behind the story is the place of the pain and the place that often hurts the most. In the case the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, there are countless issues involved. The common thread is the addiction but adding to that are other elements like poor self image and the attempt for a quick fix in life’s stresses.
Finally, I am not one who suffers from addiction but in ministry I have found myself in many situations where the impact of the effects of drug and alcohol abuse was significant. One of the most wonderful experiences I ever experience is being invited to an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting in order to celebrate a sobriety birthday for friends who struggle on a daily basis to fight the addictions. They are joyful occasions!
On the other hand, I have prayed and cried with those who have not enjoyed successes with addiction. In some cases we have buried loved ones who lost the battle with addictions. Our final prayer in their passing is that they will finally be rid of the demons of addiction that contributed in making their lives miserable.
The Trinitarian God is Our Only Hope
Whatever the addiction, drugs, alcohol, work, success, money or material goods we are all helpless without God in our lives. In fact, the third step in the AA program is to make a decision to turn wills and lives over to the care of God, as we understand Him. For us Catholic Christians this means relying on the Risen Jesus, His Father and the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. That is a scary step in any situation but one that truly works. Jesus himself struggled in the Garden as he begged that His cup be taken from him but in the end he totally submitted to His Father’s will. That is our call, too
The successes of AA are impressive to me. I have been lifted up and spiritually recharged every time I have been invited to attend an AA meeting. The total submission to the will of God has been a lifelong struggle for me. I am filled with the Holy Spirit in the presence of those who make it their life’s goal. For me, the sight of people reaching out and helping one other with life shattering issues is seeing the Gospel values alive in our world.
One of the most impressive shows of service in the AA community is labeled “the 12 step call.” This happens when a member of AA calls to tell another that they are being tempted to drink; I have seen an AA member leave important family dinners and functions, to be with a total stranger who is struggling. This act of asking for help by the one in need generates an outpouring of care and compassion that is unique. This is a strong example of living Gospel values in one’s daily life.
Letting Go to Jesus
Many families, mine included, have been affected the terror of the effects of drug and alcohol abuse. Yet, in the midst of these storms, there are the successes in letting to the higher power—Jesus.
True peace can only be achieved through a lifestyle that is modeled on the Cross of Jesus. As humans on a journey to the heavenly kingdom, we will suffer, we will struggle, we will fail and many times we will be successful. It is not hopeless. Our hope is in the Lord. It is Our Lord who forgives our sins and feeds us at the table with His Body and Blood. The lord calls us forth to be involved.
Submission to Jesus Christ
It is only though the submission to Jesus Christ can we deal with the additions. Of the world, The Lord invites us to eat at his table of plenty. This meal is not an individual experience but a totally communal one. The Sacraments are not individual either—they are all communal in nature. When we are lifted up in Reconciliation from the stain of sin, we are better father, mother, brother, sister, co-word and person. That is exactly the communal nature of our being.
For Your Reflection
From a Ministry Perspective:
- What addictions do I have that need to be released to Jesus? Can I make that a reality?
- In what areas of my relationship with my parish family do I have trouble responding to the call of my brothers and sisters?
From a Family Perspective:
- In my Domestic Church, as parent, sibling, widow or single, what addictions do I have that need to be released to Jesus? Can I make that a reality?
- In what areas of our relationship with each other and God do my family and I have trouble responding to the call of my brothers and sisters?
I would love your feedback, thoughts, stories and ideas. Please email me.
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