Theres been a quote of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s that I’ve seen circulating in social media in recent weeks:
“The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort; you were made for greatness.”
Comfort (or comfortability, or being comfortable) is a sense of physical or psychological ease, often characterized as a lack of hardship.
We live in a world of comfort, of simple solutions, of over medication.
Tired? Grab a coffee or energy drink. Bored? Mindless entertainment is just a click away. Hungry? Pop in a frozen TV dinner or drive to the nearest fast food joint. Sad? Can’t sleep? Got a slight pain? There’s pills for all of that and more.
Parents tell their children to avoid settling down and marriage, having children or being stuck in the same place. Go out and experience life, have a good time, travel, earn money, gain possessions, then settle down when you can do it comfortably. Then you won’t be bored/poor/lonely/insert discomfort here.
We are fooled if we think that being Catholic can mean blending in and carrying on as the rest of the world does. It is comfortable to be like everyone else. Everyone else doesn’t want to waste their Sunday sleeping time going to Mass. Everyone else wants to go out, have a good time, meet the opposite sex and do what they want, without some old, decrepid, sexist organisation telling them what to do.
“Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” - James 4:4
Suffering and discomfort is one of the most common arguments people have against God and religion. But, some of the best things in life come from discomfort. Just look at the Beatitudes. Or these words from Jesus to St Gemma Galgani:
“Look Daughter, and learn how to love” and He showed me His five open wounds. “Do you see this cross, these thorns, these nails, these bruises, these tears, these wounds, this blood? They are all works of love; of infinite love. Do you see how much I have loved you? Do you really want to love Me? Then first learn how to suffer. It is by suffering that one learns how to love“. – Autobiography of St Gemma Galgani
In my life, motherhood has been my best lesson of that.
These days family life is so easily open to criticism, whether couples are blessed with children or not. Through unavoidably being different to the norm by using Natural Family Planning and being open to children, however young we were, however many or however closely spaced God blesses us with them, we have no choice but to be open to the negativity that many express. Criticism is not comfortable, defending your faith leaves you exposed.
Pregnancy can be arduous. It helps to see the parallel between Christ’s suffering and our experience – a time of suffering and penance, followed by a painful event, culminating in the joyous celebration of new life.
As mothers and women, we have the unique vocation of physically sacrificing and offering our bodies, in much the same way Jesus did. We have the privilege of being able to “walk with Christ”; standing in the garden of Gethsemane with him facing our fears of birth, walking along the path to Calvary as he is beaten and fatigued and perhaps wishing the suffering to be taken away. But we are able to endure for the greater glory and the will of God. Knowing that at the end of the suffering – after the crucifixion and the pinnacle of pain – lies glorious new life for us all.
Christ asks us to embrace discomfort, not to avoid or complain about it. As Benedict XVI said in Spe Salvi: “It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love” (Spe Salvi, 37). Life isn’t meant to be easy. We can gain so much from every experience we have, if only we look at it with a new perspective. Ultimately, this path leads us to the Kingdom of Heaven. Who could ask for a better reward?