Lent Day 11 – Suffering and Salvation

by Bishop Robert Barron

There are times when the saving quality of our suffering is relatively easy to understand (even if it’s hard to bear). When a mother stays up all night, depriving herself of sleep, in order to care for a sick child, she is carrying his burden, suffering so that some of his suffering might be alleviated. When a person willingly bears an insult, and refuses to fight back or return insult for insult, he is suffering for the sake of love.

I’ll give you two more dramatic examples. First is Maximilian Kolbe. When a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz in the summer of 1942, the Nazi soldiers imposed their penalty. They took all of the prisoners from the escapees’ barracks and lined them up and then at random chose a man to be put to death in retaliation. When the man broke down in tears, protesting that he was the father of young children, a quiet bespectacled man stepped forward and said, “I am a Catholic priest; I have no family. I would like to die in this man’s place.”

Here, with brutal clarity, we can see the relationship between salvation and suffering willingly accepted. St. Maximilian Kolbe was consciously participating in the act of his Master, making up, in Paul’s language, what is still lacking in the suffering of Christ (Colossians 1:24).

And then there is St. Francis of Assisi, from whom Pope Francis took his name. Among the many stories told of St. Francis, one of the most affecting is that concerning his encounter with a leprous man.

Young Francis had a particular revulsion for leprosy. Whenever he saw someone suffering from that disease, he would run in the opposite direction. One day, he saw a leper approaching, and he sensed the familiar apprehension and disgust. But then he decided, under the inspiration of the Gospel, to embrace the man, kiss him, and give him alms. Filled with joy, Francis made his way up the road. When he turned around, he discovered the man gone, disappeared.

Once again, suffering was the concrete expression of love.


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  • concerned citizen

    Thank you Bishop Barron. I agree that there are times when the saving quality of suffering can easily be understood. Some more samples would be a son giving up one of his kidney for his father. Or a father sacrificing his personal needs so that his children will be able to go to school.

    But what is not so noticeable, is when one makes sacrifices and offers it for the healing of a loved one. Prayer and fasting are said to be very effective. There are some who makes a promise not to watch a movie the whole year, or not to eat beef the whole year or not to buy any personal clothing for oneself the whole year just so a loved one would get cured of cancer or wake up from a coma. And I personally have witnessed these things to happen. Some may say it is just a coincidence. But those with the eyes of faith know prayers and fasting have contributed to the healing.

  • ber

    You know bishop Barron its easy to talk the talk but not walk the walk its only then we know what we. Are made of don’t you think suffering is so unique to each person for each carry his own cross we lost a friend last year to moved nureon she was a saint the way she bore her suffering she never wasted a day offering it up fore souls yet so young and with young children noone could come close to her saintness she left a sweet taste when she died while I on the other hand leave a sour taste we all have someone saintley in our lives when we die could others day the same about us ??????

  • Regina Peek Vivanco

    Bishop Barron, my brother, Fr Joseph Peek, has been battling cancer for 14 years. In the past 8 or 9 he has had sores all over his body making him look like a leper. Last December, he was given the news, 3-6-9 months to live & yet he is still here. He offers it up for the priests of the Atlanta Archdiocese. Please check out his blog: http://www.aymcym.blogspot.com He is down to only drinking liquids. A priest friend of ours from the diocese said, “It is not everyday you get to see your sins so visibly in front of you. I have to ask myself, which sore did I cause?” Please pray for Fr Joseph Peek. Thank you!

    • concerned citizen

      Regina, I posted a few days ago, that Blessed Mother Teresa founded the Society of Suffering Co-workers to collaborate with the Missionaries of Charity. The members of this society would offer their sufferings for the success of the missionaries of charity. For every missionary, there is one suffering co-worker. Mother Teresa herself was linked to one of the suffering co-workers and she admitted that she was able to weather her worst trials because of the suffering of this particular co-worker. Your brother / priest, Fr. Joseph may want to join the society. I will be praying for Fr. Joseph.

    • Crystal Hernandez

      Regina, thank you so much for sharing your beloved brother’s courageous offering of suffering experience from his illness…in this I see my Jesus covered with wounds…for my soul…for us all in mercy….

    • disqus_KXqeZMikzj

      prayers for Fr Joseph!!!!!

  • Aliziris Bombino

    Thanks Bishop Barron. Your explanation of redemptive suffering united to Christ’s finally helped my understanding. I didn’t get what could be lacking in Jesus’ suffering. Now, with your examples I can see that we are consoling Jesus and at the same time being blessed with joy.

  • Joseph T. Garcia

    “Love Alone Creates ” St. Maximilian, amidst the hate and lonely misery of Auschwitz , you brought love into the lives of fellow captives and sowed the seeds of amidst despair , You bore witness to the world , by word and deed , that only “Love Alone Creates ”
    Help me to become more like yourself . With you and Mary and the Church , may I proclaim that only ” Love Alone Creates.” To the hungry and opressed , the naked and homeless , the scorned and hated , the lonely and despairing , may I proclaim the power of Christ’s love , which endures forever and ever . Amen . ~~ Saint Maximilian Kolbe ~~

  • Jennifer Walet

    Bishop Barron, I appreciate your expounding on this theme from yesterday with common (the mother) and uncommon (the saints) concrete examples to help us take in this mysterious, challenging and consoling truth that our sufferings in this life have meaning and can contribute to salvation of our own souls as well countless souls for whom sufferings may be offered.

  • Anton D

    ‘. . . When a person willingly bears an insult, and refuses to fight back or return insult for insult, he is suffering for the sake of love.’

    Thank you for the explanation.

    • Anton D

      Here’s a coincidence / test:

      Today just sometime back, I had a minor traffic incident where a rider shouted unpleasant words at me, thinking he had to have the right of way when actually it clearly was my turn to pass. I just wanted to let him have ‘it’. But today’s reflection kept me from retaliating.

      I just had to try and keep quiet / shut-up. It is difficult. But I got to start somewhere.

      • rtclovesmac

        God makes all things good

      • concerned citizen

        When the same thing happens to me, I just think that the other driver or the rider has had an unpleasant day which made him said the bad words. And then offer the unpleasant situation for the poor souls in purgatory. I know it is easier said than done. But when you remember to have this attitude it works. One suggestion is to make a sign of the Cross before you get on the road.

  • William

    Sometimes our suffering is allowed by God to get our attention. to stop, turn around and return to Him, Better to suffer a little here on earth than to suffer eternal lose of God. Other times our suffering is allowed by God as a share in Christs suffering on the cross.

    • concerned citizen

      I agree with you, Willaim. To paraphrase what Jesus said, better to die without one eye and go to heaven than die with two eyes and go to hell. Some learn to turn to God only after experiencing a personal tragedy such as business losses or serious physical ailment.

      But suffering has another value. It can also shorten your stay in purgatory.

      There is a story, I am not sure how true it is. There were two priests who were suffering in the hospital. Their guardian angels asked them which they would prefer, one day in purgatory or several months of suffering in the hospital. One priest answered quickly, of course I would prefer one day in purgatory. So that priest died and went to purgatory. After one earth day, the priest was complaining to the angel and said that he was already suffering for more than a year in purgatory and said the angel did not keep his part of the deal. But the angel said, the priest was not even there for an hour. The extreme pain in purgatory made him feel like it has already been a year.

      The other priest chose to stay several months in the hospital. And when he died, he went straight to heaven.

      So if you are suffering, do not complain. Just offer it to God for the poor souls in purgatory. It will help the poor souls and at the same time, your stay in purgatory will be reduced. And if you are like the saints, whose sufferings were much more than enough to atone for their venial sins, you’d go straight to heaven.

      • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell


        I have read such stories. To add a comment, souls in Purgatory can pray for us but not for themselves!

        The teachings if Holy Mother Church come from the books of Macabee’s both I and II!

        That is why many Protestants, don’t believe in its existance. In the King James and other protestant translations, there are only 66 books, not 72/73 as in the Catholic translation!

        In past reflections, I explained why only 66 books!

        I have heard it said that the difference between purgatory and hell is that inpurgatory you know you will get out and be with God forever! Likewise, one knows he is in hell forever.

        Peace and prayers,

        The Prayer Warrior

  • Kath Thankful

    I still don’t get it. The Bible tells us how much Jesus loves us, etc., Why would God/Jesus want us to suffer? Some of the examples (mom staying up all night for sick child) is suffering. That’s just what moms do. Sacrificing is something I can understand, e.g., giving up things in order to help others but that isn’t suffering. I am 82 years old and still don’t get suffering.

    • MariaG

      Kath, here’s a link that may help you understand better meaning of suffering … Hope it helps.


      • concerned citizen

        Maria, thanks for sharing us the link. It is a very good explanation of why God allows us to suffer.

    • concerned citizen

      Kath, first you have to make a correction. God does not want us to suffer, but He allows us to suffer. Suffering came into the world because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve. But God in His wisdom and love has made something good out of this suffering. Please read the link that Maria had just posted.

      • Kath Thankful

        I did read the link. Unfortunately, it didn’t change my thoughts. I am a cradle Catholic, attended a Catholic grammar school and a Catholic all girls high school. Yet, I still disagree with a lot people say/write. So much theology is pure speculation. While I believe we can find God in suffering, can become stronger, etc., I still do not believe we should offer our sufferings up to Jesus. He was the final sacrifice. Heck, I am not even sure about purgatory.

        • concerned citizen

          Kath, why do you think Jesus said, “Deny yourself, carry your cross and follow me.”? And where was He going but to Mt. Calvary. Hence He wanted us to share our sufferings with Him.

          Why do you think Jesus said, “Love one another as I have loved you.”? – And how did He love us? He suffered and died for us. In imitating Jesus, we should likewise offer our sufferings to Jesus for the other members of His Mystical Body.

          Why do you think Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least of our brethren you do it to me.”?. So when we offer our sufferings to Jesus for love of our fellow brothers and sisters, will not Jesus accept your offerings and answer your prayers?

          Oh, yes the purgatory exists. So many saints such as St. Padre Pio, St. Faustina, St. Theresa have seen it.

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    Sometime’s bye the time you have decide to embrace someone who you reject because of the smells or how dirty someone is, and the moment passes and you don’t get to help out. I think sometimes the that is a Angel, I have failed. It’s a one of life’s lesson to not be judge mental so you take it to confession and try next time to do better. When things of this life brother you that it to confession so you can repent and release it, do not hang on to it.

  • Jackie

    For the sake of love, even when I don’t feel particularly loving, which comes from not loving myself and accepting myself, when I am in this human condition and I reach out to another in love, I am really reaching out to my own inner self and this is where it all happens.

  • Murieta Marsha

    Kath- like some else said- suffering is unique to each person vs sacrifice . Suffering is more like enduring- as in illness or the pains of the older years or not being able to do all the things a person could do when younger. We don’t sign up for suffering, but we can volunteer to bear it prayerfully. In that way we unite our lives as they are to that of Christ, the Suffering Servant of us all. From personal experience in the sudden death of my husband at age 46 and with me to care for 4 children ages 9-16, I suffered, but gained profoundly in the spiritual realm. In my “weakness”, He made me strong . It has been 20 years- His fidelity has transformed my life and has allowed me to “see” . I give thanks IN all things and that His ways work together unto good- even in the most unthinkable circumstances such as death of a loved one.
    Sacrifice can be united to suffering because in my case, being a single mom, there were plenty of optional opportunities. One is driven to choose the most giving ones through love and compassion.

  • rtclovesmac

    When a person willingly bears an insult, and refuses to fight back or return insult for insult, he is suffering for the sake of love.
    This is sometimes the hardest for me, yet it would seem to be the easiest to do…
    Children challenge us constantly…drinking the Kool-aide of today’s philosophies and letting us know how “old” and unreasonable our ways are.
    Thank goodness God’s Mercy endures forever.

  • Gary

    Do yo want to be a Christian? Before you make your decision, consider what you will have to endure. Jesus said: ‘I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. Take up your cross and follow me. If you want to gain your life, you must lose it. The first will be last, and the last will be first.” As Christians, we are everything that the world hates. We are at war against the world. We are set apart from the world. We do not conform to the world. We are a LIGHT that shines bright before men in the midst of a dark world. We are called to live Spiritual lives, and to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. You are going to suffer for Christ even to the point that you may have to lay down your life for him. The Christian life is a life of continual sacrificial living constantly moving away from self and moving towards Jesus. The challenge is are you a nominal Christian, or are you a committed Christian willing to lay down your life for Him? Jesus says “Either you are for me are against me.” You can’t straddle the fence. This world offers you temporary joy and happiness which last for a short time. Jesus offers an everlasting life of love, peace and happiness with him in heaven. Joshua said: “Choose today who you will serve.” God bless you.

  • NOSA48

    Great reflection, but I would like to make one correction for the sake of history: When a prisoner escaped from Auschwitz, ten (10) prisoners from his barracks were chosen at random to die in retaliation. This was intended to keep prisoners from attempting to escape—knowing how many of his fellow prisoners would die if he succeeded. We can never underestimate the evil of the Holocaust!

  • Linda Dokey

    Thank you! I have never heard the story of the Leper before. Very Powerful! GOD BLESS

  • mtt

    what does it take to get the MOTIVATION for sacrifice?…daily, consistently?

    • rtclovesmac

      Just take the first step towards God’s Grace and be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit!

    • concerned citizen

      mtt, try meditating on the Passion and Death of Our Lord daily. One way to do this is to pray the fifteen prayers of happiness of St. Bridget. Here is the link:


      When you meditate on His Passion, you appreciate more and more what He has done for us and in turn, motivates you to also make sacrifices for other people.

  • Penelope

    Yes, suffering, love and salvation are connected. I have been involved in the healing ministry since 1989, and I have seen much suffering. I have also witnessed much healing, love, and transformation – in heart, mind, body and spirit.

    Each time I reach out to someone who is suffering, I encounter the Lord. And the Lord pours out His love on us as we minister to each other, God loves to see his children show compassion for each other. This communion with God draws us closer to each other, and we grow in our trust and our love for God. And He increases our love for each other.

    Whenever I meet someone afterwards, whom I have met through prayer, I find that the Lord has deepened our love for each other. There is something new and tangible in our relationship. Suffering and love has brought us together. The one who receives prayer for healing, and the one who prays, both are touched by the Lord.

    Like the next person, I would rather not suffer. But with no suffering, where would I learn to have compassion for another?? I have been on both the giving and receiving end of prayer. It is a ministry that is very close to my heart, and one that has touched all areas of my life.

    I thank the Lord for all the healing I have received, and I thank the Lord for the privilege of praying for others.
    All for love of Jesus Christ!

    If anyone is interested, I wrote an article for The Way, which I have also added to my home page, entitled:
    Models for Healing Prayer in Spiritual Direction:
    The Healing Ministry of Jesus; the Passion of Christ; the Consecration

    Here are the links:
    For subscribers of The Way
    Link to article on my home page

  • Crystal Hernandez

    Our actions do make our love a tangible reality for one another, and for our Lord. Indeed, everything I have learned about Divine Mercy flows from the painful reality of the Cross of Christ for my soul, and the daily carrying of my own crosses in union with the Lord’s great work of love for us and souls…I am convinced of the incomprehensible value of suffering with Him, in Him, and for love of Him and others. This has been a source of real transformation in my soul, thanks be to God.

  • Norma

    Suffering comes in different forms, weather psychologically, verbal or physically. To me the verbal is one of the most terrible of all, but than again I haven’t experienced the physically, so I can’t really tell.

  • Nancy Rynders

    I think it is beautiful to think that we, mere sinful beings, can actually be united to Christ in our suffering. He carried His cross, and hung from it…..we do the same when we encounter suffering of any magnitude. I pray for all those suffering in any way this Lenten season……bring it to the Lord, and be one with Him.

  • disqus_KXqeZMikzj

    A most wonderful and necessary teaching!! Thank you!!!!!