In my flesh I fill up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for the sake of his body, the Church. Col: 1:24.
The Apostle Paul is not referring to the sufferings Christ endured on the cross for our salvation, but to the suffering and fatigue Jesus experienced as he trudged up and down the rugged paths of Galilee and Judea. Paul was going where Jesus did not go. He saw the narrow paths of the Taurus mountains, he survived shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea, he walked the muddy streets and cobble stones of Corinth and Athens.
He would tell of floggings and stonings. He knew the pain of betrayals. He suffered misunderstandings, insults, rejections, desertions. He took all this in stride because he was determined to spread the good news that the Son of God had died on a cross to redeem human kind.
And today hundreds – priests, religious men and women, lay apostles – endure hardship even assassination to spread the Kingdom of God. Fr. Carl Schmitz, a Passionist priest, was shot dead because he opposed those who would try to force his native people into crime. There are hundreds of 21st century apostles who have surrendered life in the cause of the Gospel.
All of us are called to spread our faith by living it. In the process, insult, hardship may come our way and for us as for the Apostle Paul, this is our share in the sufferings Christ knew in his public ministry.
Jesus was worn out and thirsty when he sat down at Jacob’s well and startled a Samaritan woman by asking her to give him a drink of water. Paul had to thank many for helping him endure prison for his work of proclaiming the message of Jesus. We know our efforts seem so puny in comparison to those of the heroes of yesterday and today. But Jesus himself, assures us that even one who "gives only a cup of cold water will surely not lose the reward." Mt. 10: 42
Fr. Fred Sucher, C.P. is retired and lives in the Passionist community in Louisville, Kentucky. For many years he taught philosophy to Passionist seminarians.