Therefore, I bear with everything for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)
I have often said that the writings of St. Paul are the source of much of the theology of suffering as well as what is now called in some circles as the theology of disability. Today's reading from the second Letter to Timothy provides us with another glimpse into the thought of St. Paul on this subject.
St. Paul is writing this letter from prison. He speaks of being chained. Prisoners such as St. Paul would have been locked in a cell with his arms and/or legs shackled to a wall in that cell. Really important prisoners would have a guard posted outside the door of the cell. Dangerous or even more important prisoners would have another guard posted within the cell. While we cannot speculate on St. Paul's actual circumstances, it is safe to say that his shackles are real and would have made the ordeal a painful existence. In addition to these circumstances, it is also important to remember that prisoners were dependent upon people outside to provide them with food and clothing. This is one detail that gives rise to the thought that perhaps Paul had a secretary or scribe (such as is mentioned in his letter to Philemon) who was his source of support while in prison.
St. Paul uses his chains as a way to speak of the power of God's word. But the word of God is not chained. (2 Timothy 2:9b) Despite his circumstances, Paul understands that his suffering for the sake of the Word of God which he has preached is, in fact, a source of power for that Word. Even in our own day, we tend to pay attention to what a person has to say if he is willing to suffer for its sake. This is true of the virtuous as well as the not so virtuous as is evident from the situation of the man who is leaking sensitive information about our government to the media.
St. Paul follows this statement with the core of the message. He is suffering because of his preaching. However, he is willing to undergo that suffering because he realizes that he is building up the elect or "the chosen," and he is making it possible for them to experience the freedom that he has gained through his preaching.
This is very much a part of the vocation of a CUSAN as it is our intention to suffer for a purpose. While some may scoff at the notion, we have been taught at the knees of our parents to "offer up" such suffering. CUSANS all offer their daily sufferings and frustrations up for the sake of the Church and the intentions they have adopted as their own. With St. Paul, we sing: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. (2 Timothy 2:11b-12a)
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M.