September 5, 2011

What is Lacking in the Afflictions of Christ

I've always been intrigued by the letter to the Colossians and the idea of "filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the Church" as it comes us in the first reading in the lectionary today.

Certainly there is nothing lacking in the afflictions that Jesus Christ took to himself for the world's salvation; on the contrary, these were and are superabundant in their efficacy. Nor is there any lack of afflictions in this world, in the misery we insist upon for ourselves with our sins and the injustices and violence that plague and hobble human society.

So what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ? What still needs to be filled up? What is lacking is that not all of the afflictions of this world have surrendered to Christ's work of identifying himself with them. We have not yet consented to God's plan to identify himself with our suffering and alienation so as to reveal the path through it to new life. In theological terms, we have not yet consented to the glory of the cross in which the resurrection is revealed.

Suffering is our opportunity to embrace our Marian vocation of becoming those who conceive and bear God's salvation to the world. In ourselves this means surrendering to the Christ who identifies himself with our afflictions so as to show us the path to new life he has blazed from within them. In others this means allowing our hearts to be broken at the suffering of others so that we might learn the compassion that assimilates our own hearts to God.

What is lacking in the afflictions of Christ is our individual and collective realization of the salvation that we already have.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this interpretation. I have always been confused by this passage but, unlike you, I didn't come to an understanding of it! Now, thanks to you, it makes more sense.

Brother Charles said...

I don't present the post as a normative interpretation; there are certainly others. That's just what makes sense to me in my own reflection. Thanks for the encouragement!

Ryan Harty said...

Thanks for this! As you said in the last comment, this blog post is not a substitute for rigorous study and exegesis, but it's encouraging and helpful!

RJ said...

If I am, in some sense, one with Christ (in communion), then can we perhaps say that my sufferings are his sufferings for the salvation of the world: Christ suffering in his body the Church, which is not separate from Him? That's a question rather than a rhetorical question.
Put another way: if the Church is Christ's body, then aren't the Church's sufferings Christ's sufferings, and these sufferings of the Church are what are still to be undergone (what is 'lacking')?

Brother Charles said...