It sure wasn't an easy trip for a very pregnant Virgin Mother and St Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. If it wasn't the rough road, it was the bighting cold; if not the crowded paths, the dusty trails; if not the uncertainty of what they would find, it was the constant rejection again and again of lodging, and ultimately the humiliation of them both knowing that the child in Mary's Immaculate Womb was the Son of God, and seeing and witnessing firsthand how he is to be greeted by a cold cave meant for barn animals?
Why would God almighty, who ordains all things, who holds the universe in a span, aware of every rain drop, knows where the wind comes and goes, and arranges sweetly each molecule, allow his chosen servant to suffer?
Why does he allow us to suffer? Why do I have to suffer?
The truth is, that if the road to Bethlehem was not rough and strewn with humiliations and rejections, we would not be made more worhty to enjoy the birth of the Savior.
Ever been on a pilgrimage?
Aches and pains, late transport and missed flights, flat tires, complaining co-journeymen, discomfort, waiting, waiting, waiting and more waiting, meager portions, sour food, expensive lodging, rude hosts, rude guests, etc. etc. etc. Each and every single one of these very difficult details is permitted or even ordained by God to humble us, quelch our pride, to quiet our self will, to remind us once again that we are not God. We are powerless, not in control, and need to abandon ourselves to providence in order to begin to find peace amidst any and every assortment of difficult situations.
Fr Flanagan, the founder of my Society of Apostolic Life, SOLT, says this:
"Remember that God does not afflict creatures merely for the sake of afflicting them but in order to make them more capable and worthy of receiving blessings and treasures prepared for them."
"By Suffering: The vapors of sin are allayed; The excesses of the passions are crushed; Pride and haughtiness are humiliated; The flesh is subdued; The inclination to evil is repressed; The will is brought within bounds; The movements to stray are corrected; Divine love and pity are drawn down; Suffering is embraced with patience; We seek to imitate Christ."
What happens when a person with a very pure, even Immaculate Heart suffers? It illicits from them an even deeper praise and adoration of God than was possible without the pain. It makes pure love even more pure, until Love is so pure that it becomes so real, so enshrined, enthroned, enfleshed, even Incarnate in a given moment.
How fitting and perfect it was for Mary and Joseph to suffer greatly before the Savior was born! How perfect and fitting that we should suffer and so enter into the glory of divine Love manifesting itself in a new way, that Jesus Christ would be born into our hearts and lives in a new and profound way.
Therefore, it is so important that we not fear suffering, that any attmept for self-medication, escapism, excusing ourselves, blaming, sluffing off the measure of suffering that we are asked to carry. I think about this very much before I ask for relief from suffering. What if, just what if this suffering is given to me to bring about in my life a new manifestation of God that I have never known before, graces I have never yet received, love never yet known? I am very careful of trying to justify it, or fix it, or change it. Like Our Lady, I beg God for the grace not to react to it, but to ponder it in my heart, waiting for the purpose and plan, especially its most beautiful fruit to be manifested.
May the prayers and intercession of Blessed Mary and good St Joseph help us in our Advent way, especially when it seems difficult, toilsome, rough, and futile. May God bring us to be more worthy of Christmas joys through Advent pains.