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Over the years I have met and worked with, as I am sure you also have, people with disabilities.  Whether it is with the disabled children’s pilgrimage to Lourdes each Easter or in many Parish situations, I have come across many people with disabilities.  And in many instances what strikes me most is the way that, in spite of the suffering that they endure, they seem to be happy and fulfilled in life.  Not in all circumstances but in many; and not every moment of every day, but happy and fulfilled in life.  Recently I met a lady I had first met many years ago through a disabled club.  She had had a disability since young adulthood and it had forced her to give up her job.  The disability had changed her life and that of her family as they sought to find ways to keep her engaged with life and society.  What struck me most the other day is that, despite many years having passed by since she was diagnosed, and having had to put up with the disability, she had not lost any of the enthusiasm for life.  There was still a spark of joy and interest in people; she was happy to keep me up to date with the latest Hospital visits etc and I left thinking to myself that she had been more interested in hearing my story and about my circumstances. 




How to merge being a disciple with suffering in life.  Those are the themes that are running through today’s Gospel: Jesus was warning his disciples that “he was destined to suffer, to be put to death and to rise from the dead”; and then, later in the Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to lose their life so that they can find it.  As we know, in this part of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus is teaching those who are following him how to be disciples and in today’s passage, he is inviting them to reflect on two facts: Jesus himself will suffer in life; and they too will have to find a path through suffering.  He teaches his followers that they are not to run away from suffering, that’s what the world would have them do.  Indeed Jesus chastises Peter for wanting to do that very thing – run away “Peter, you are an obstacle in God’s path.”  No, the faithful disciple will be one who faces up to suffering and who finds a path through suffering to the place of hope.  The disciple, as ever, will be able to find that place of hope through suffering, by following Jesus’ path.  Jesus’ sufferings were extreme: the beatings, the torture and his eventual death but the faithful disciple knows that, through those sufferings, he came to the ultimate place of hope – the Resurrection.




Have you met an inspirational person who knows how to find hope in spite of suffering?  What is your attitude to pain and suffering?  Your pain, your suffering, that of family and friends around you?  Today you and I are challenged to find a path of hope through suffering.  As I look back over my life, I know that the hardest times in my life, the times when I have struggled myself or walked with others through suffering, have also been the most illuminating.  It’s as if life tells me that, when I find life easy and comfortable, I don’t value life as much.  However, it’s when there difficulties, pain and even illness in life, when I have to struggle, it’s then that I find most meaning and most purpose in life.   




Hope through suffering.  Today once again Peter is our model of faith.  The question is, like Peter, do you want to be for Jesus a “stumbling block” or a “rock of faith”?




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