Monday, March 10, 2008

Roses, Suffering and the Cross

Human life is very fragile, much like the life of a flower. Almost all flowers wilt and die when their stems are harmed, so some flowers, like the rose, have developed defenses against the dangers of the world. A rose is also recognized as one of the most beautiful flowers in the world.

A rose is a flower, which reflects each person in a mystical sense. A rose blooms slowly over time with much loving care; it is the same way with our soul. Our soul requires us to shape and mold our life to Christ’s life. We develop defenses to protect the fragile bloom of our soul from the goats of the world who would come to eat it. The thorns do not come only from our own designs, but from the Cross. We must suffer in this world, because Christ suffered, pierced by our sins out of love for us. When we choose to follow Jesus, we must “deny ourselves and take up our cross daily and follow him” (Luke 9:23). As Christians none of us have any right to expect an easy life, but rather all Christians must expect and be expected to be imitators of Christ in all things. Pope John Paul II teaches in Salvifici Doloris, “The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the redemption was accomplished” (19f). In the denial of the world, believers come to share in the redemptive power of the cross through sharing in the suffering of Christ. Each person is to redeem the world around them by being Christ to the world daily. But how does one become Christ to the world? Each person must daily reach out to the lowly, the sick, the hopeless, the despairing, the hungry, the naked and the homeless, since Christ came forth to each Christian when we were in a similar place. Every person has spiritual needs as well as physical needs and as a community of believers, we must be attuned to these needs. Unity grows out of love lived each day in action for our brothers and sisters. We are not meant to be fighting amongst ourselves; people are not the ones who we are fighting in the world. Hollywood is not the enemy, nor are all the Larry Flynts and Bill Clintons of the world. They are our patients, the ones entrusted to us to declare the healing of the Gospel of our Lord. They are the weak, sick, and broken parts of the rosebush of the human race. Christians are the leaves of the human race, who are working for food that will not pass away (cf. John 6:27). The leaves give a rosebush strength and color by spreading the food to all parts of the plant, even the sick and dying parts (i.e. the Larry Flynts of the world). These sick parts are usually given more food (i.e. the time we need to spend praying for them) that rebuild the cells of the plant to become healthy. The beautiful blooms of the saints struggle to bring the sick and lowly to the glory of our Father’s loving plan, so each person may know the beauty of the love of God blooming in their lives. But with the bloom comes the thorns, each person must be pricked in order to become the rose that Christ sees in them. In the winter of society, when all things seem to be dead or dying, we can still look at the roses and see the thorns, remembering the beautiful scent of the rose. Michael Phillips said it best in his series The Secret of the Rose, “For those who love the blooms even the thorns have a scent.” May Mary, who is the Mystical Rose, guide us to her Son, so we may become the beautiful flower which he planted on the hill of Calvary.

(Originally published in the Ave Maria College newspaper in Ypsilanti, MI).

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