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July 1992

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church. (Col. 1:24)

In telling the community at Colossae something about the sufferings that always accompanied his apostolic ministry, Paul reveals to us that all these tribulations were a cause of joy to him because they were to the advantage of the Christian communities he had founded. He embraced these difficulties in union with Jesus, and they became a source of supernatural life for the Church; they served to 'complete the afflictions' that Jesus had borne for us.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.

At first sight these words could surprise us. What does Paul mean? He teaches us that Christ's afflictions, being of infinite value, do not need to be completed in any way. But in addition he reveals to us that these afflictions need to enter into our life, to be made our own. Jesus calls us to share in his passion. The very grace that he won for us encourages us to embrace suffering as he did. Although Jesus won salvation for the whole world, he wants us to be associated with his passion, calling us to share in his work of salvation. He wants to give us the joy not only of believing in him, but also of suffering for him and with him (Phil. 1, 29). So this is the way we can complete Christ's afflictions: by accepting suffering together with him, bringing the work of salvation to fulfilment, with him and in him.

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.

How shall we live the Word of Life this month? Let's remember and put into practice the two precious teachings it contains. The first is the fact that while suffering purifies our soul, making us grow in union with Jesus, it also makes us channels of grace for the world. Every time we embrace suffering in union with Jesus - all the trials, all the sufferings, all the tribulations - without reservations, without exception, and without dwelling uselessly on them, we become true friends of Jesus, those who cooperate most closely with him in the work of salvation. Suffering is something we find woven into our earthly life, and the world rejects it as something repellent and meaningless; but in God's plan it is priceless. It is the way in which he spreads the grace that saves the world.

Furthermore, this Word helps us to discover the source of joy. True joy - that intimate, deep joy which Jesus promised and of which Paul speaks, that joy which fills the soul and for which we have been created - cannot come from seeking pleasure, cannot come from the selfish satisfaction of our passions. It comes rather from the effort, the sacrifice which go into fulfilling. a duty, the living of the word of Jesus, the serving of our brothers and sisters, sacrifice and effort embraced with love and with all the zeal of our hearts.

Chiara Lubich

 

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