March 20, 2013

Is suffering a virtue?

The lenten season has motivated me to repost reflections from my other blogs that are related to my faith journey. The following article was first published on PADAYON: Our Life Journey, April 17, 2011.

Much as I wanted to attend the 83rd Graduation Ceremonies of Central Philippine University last week, my health constrained me. But I got a copy of the commencement message of a brilliant young lawyer who is the only son of my mentor at the Department of Social Work. Addressed to graduates and respective families, the last portion of his speech inspires me. Subsequently, this series of Lenten reflections.

Atty. Peter Irving C. Corvera associates success with significance. For unless our success leaves any imprint on the lives of others, it remains a personal accomplishment. His contention is that success and significance are not dependent on material factors and the length of stay in this world, respectively. Hence, the challenge to make a difference now. He cited the case of Jesus the Christ, whose earthly life was short but significant. The impact of Jesus life on the world and the lives of people is eternal.

Emphasizing service, more than excellence or riches, as something that gives significance to life, he shares the story of his mother. This is where his message penetrates my soul. For I know very well Mrs. Ruth Ciriaco Corvera. How she spent the best years of life on her passion for service as pastor and social worker. Either in church or community, she consistently espouses her development slogan- empower people to reach their full potential before God. I have been a witness to her irresistible commitment. Nothing can stop her, not even problems, difficulties, illness, pains and sufferings. She has given all with seemingly nothing for her old age. Yet, at the age of 82, she was stricken with cancer. Now on the eighth year, six years of which were in stage-4, she continues to think of ways how she could be useful to others.

Every time I think of the life of Ma'am Corvera and others like her, I feel humiliated. Admittedly my wife and I have been devastated by what happened to me. More so, when in crises, we realized our folly of not saving for our own needs. Obsessed in service, we seem to give all. Worse, because one of the major causes of my suffering was principled voluntary work in community and church, especially for pastors. For a year, I continue to wrestle this issue. Now, I realized my experience pales in comparison to hers. Her condition is even worse than mine. Yet, she still has the time to periodically call me and inspire me to hold on and go on with life and service.

When I reflect on the life of Jesus, the more I am humbled in my sufferings. Despite being the only begotten Son of God, He was not spared from the harsh realities in life. Even if we combine all our pains in life, the product falls short to the sacrifices, persecution, betrayal, humiliation, and disgrace he encounters in the name of service. It is in this context that the lent must be viewed, as well as our sufferings.

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