I find the first line that we heard from the first reading today from the prophet Isaiah to be troubling and a little bit jarring. The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity. Is that disturbing to any of you? The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity.

First of all, the Lord could be pleased in something like this, and secondly, that the Lord would crush him in infirmity. The prophets here are proclaiming not only what happened to the prophets at their time, but they are foreshadowing what would happen to Jesus and that He would be crushed in infirmity. How could the Lord find this pleasing? Suffering, in general, is a very confusing thing. Just the mere fact that God would allow suffering to happen in our world should cause all of us to struggle with that. Why does God allow suffering? And yet He does. We have experienced tragic sufferings throughout humanity. You have probably experienced tragic or difficult sufferings in your own life. So, why does God allow this, and let alone how could He be pleased with this? 

When Viktor Frankl wrote his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” in 1946, it became a classic. So, if you have never read the book, it is a phenomenal book, and the title is “Man’s Search for Meaning.” So, search for meaning, especially in the midst of suffering. He wrote this book after he was imprisoned in a German Concentration Camp in World War II. He was a psychiatrist, and he studied logotherapy. Logotherapy was particularly searching for the meaning of life. For him, it would be especially searching for the meaning of suffering. So, what is suffering, and is there any meaning in suffering? There are two lines that I would like to focus on that he says in the book. 

One is that “Those who have a why to live can bear almost anyhow.” That means that if we know why we live, if we know our purpose in life, then we can bear anything that happens to us because we know our purpose. We know why. The same is true for suffering. If we know the why of suffering, we can stand almost any how of suffering. What is the why ultimately of suffering? 

The second line that he says is, “In some ways, suffering ceases to be suffering the moment it finds meaning such as the meaning of sacrifice.” That is the keyword – sacrifice. The only way suffering can mean anything to us is sacrifice. The only reason we can read this phase, The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity, is sacrifice. It is ultimately this sacrifice that brings meaning to suffering.

I want to make this practical and real for all of us here. How could God be pleased with this? When Jesus came into the world, God sent Him into the world so that He could be a Savior, our Savior, and that He would sacrifice His life for the forgiveness of sins. So, the why of Jesus’ suffering was for the salvation of the world. That is why He suffered. When Jesus was grappling with this Himself, ultimately preparing to go to the cross, He prayed to God the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said, “Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass but not my will, but thy will be done.” Jesus is discerning in that moment that it was the Father’s will that He should enter into the suffering and death, and from that moment, He knew the meaning. He knew the purpose, and so it made almost anything endurable. Because it was God’s will that Jesus should suffer and die to free and restore all of us from our sins. Can you see how God would be pleased with that? How would He be so pleased that His very own Son would be willing to give His life as a ransom for the many? God was pleased in the sacrifice of His only Son because it would mean the salvation of the entire world and because He would mean that He would follow His will to the greatest suffering and death.

So, we hear The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity. What does it mean to crush? I think especially in the sign of the Eucharist when we hear about the cup when Jesus tells the disciples that they will receive. Think about a grape, a small grape that is crushed and, in a sense, destroyed, but when it is crushed and fermented, it becomes wine. Jesus, when He is crushed and suffers and destroyed in death, that suffering and death will become something new. It becomes eternal life. God the Father is so pleased with His Son that He would be willing to do that. That He would be willing to give His life to suffer and to die so pleased the Father that He will cause Him to rise.

Then we hear a little bit later in the passage: He gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants for long life. Because of his affliction, he shall see the light and the fullness of day; and during suffering, my servant shall justify many and their guilt he shall bear. So, the why of Jesus’ suffering was to save us and redeem us from sin.

Now we get to the question of ourselves. Why do we suffer? I want you to think particularly about the suffering that you have in your life right now. Maybe this suffering is temporary. Maybe it is recovering from surgery. Maybe the suffering has been ongoing. Maybe it is cancer. Maybe it is suffering you have endured your entire life. Maybe it has been a crippling depression or anxiety. What is your suffering right now? Emotionally, physically, spiritually. Try to think about what the suffering is. It could even be stress about school. It could be difficult in your life.

Do you know the why? Have you ever asked God, “Why am I suffering this?” Probably like me, you have probably prayed to say, “God, get rid of this suffering; I have had enough. I do not want it.” Or “Why am I suffering like this when nobody else is?” If you ask Him why in a particular way have you allowed this suffering? We should pray and ask God, like Jesus, to spare us from it so He can heal us and redeem us or free us from the suffering to do that. But, if He does not, if He allows it, there is a reason. The reason ultimately is so that we can participate in the suffering of Jesus. 

That is the redemptive suffering that Viktor Frankl was talking about. That we can become part of the sacrifice of Jesus. And, once we know that there is a purpose for our suffering, God is permitting or allowing this suffering in your life so that you can unite it to Jesus, which allows us to take any suffering that happens in our lives. Sometimes, but probably most of the time, we never get to this step. We never offer our suffering to Jesus. We do not unite it to Jesus. We do not say, “Father, if this is possible, let this cup pass, but if it does not, let it be done according to Your will.” I think what we forget to do is say, “God, if this is your will for me to suffer, I accept it, and I freely take it on as an offering for your sacrifice.” When we do that, suffering becomes transformed. When we do that, we can endure any suffering if we know that it is part of the Lord’s suffering. Part of His suffering, dying and rising because when we join our suffering to His, we become one with Him in the Paschal Mystery. We suffer from Him, not alone. We die with Him, not alone. And we rise with Him not alone. 

I want you for a moment to think about and call to mind what it is you are suffering. Have you offered that to God yet? Have you accepted it? Have you said, “God, I will accept it according to your will?” The moment we do that, suffering ceases to be suffering, and it transforms into redemptive sacrifice. And when we come forward to receive the very Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, we receive the chalice of suffering into us. He is with us in our suffering, and it no longer is meaningless. It no longer is purposeless, but we are part of God’s eternal plan.

Just as God the Father was so pleased that Jesus would accept this suffering and do His will, God the Father is so pleased with you that you accept your suffering and do His will.

I want you to hear that and believe that. Whatever you are suffering, if you can say, “Yes Lord, I accept this, and I offer it to you,” He will be so pleased with you.

That is when we hear the phrase, and it now makes sense: The Lord was pleased to crush him in infirmity. The Lord is pleased with the sacrifice that Jesus made, and He is so pleased with your sacrifice. He looks at you with great love, great tenderness, great hope, and He says, “Thank you. Thank you for being willing to carry this sacrifice not only for yourselves, for your salvation, but for the salvation of all as we unite ourselves to the suffering of Christ.”