Redeeming Grief

I think that the worst part of being upset about something is the side effects that come from crying. Just a few tears and suddenly you have a runny nose and a headache and then not only do you feel miserable emotionally, but you are wiped out physically as well. It almost feels like an allergy to grief, which kind of makes sense.

Earlier this week, I took my dog to the vet and got pretty much the worst news anyone taking a dog to the vet could hope to not hear. After managing to get out of the veterinary clinic and past the insanely and infuriatingly chipper receptionist, I indulged in a couple hours of crying and several more hours of nursing what I am literately calling a sick headache (because having a migraine due to receiving bad news is just way too unromantic; if I am going to be a complete goose about something, I’m at least going to have the fun of calling it by romantic names), all of which gave me ample time to reflect on this “allergic reaction to grief.” However, after I had a bit of time to pull myself together, I was compelled to remember that being sad or upset as a Catholic is at least superior to being sad or upset and not Catholic, because of that one dear little command so often given to us as little kids: offer it up.

A few weeks ago, I think it was on the Feast of Corpus Christi, my family had the pleasure of hearing a really excellent homily wherein the priest made the point that people, especially Catholics, shouldn’t find it so very difficult to believe that bread and wine are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ.  After all, most of those same people don’t have a problem believing that Jesus cured diseases and raised people from the dead, and in doing so, changed the nature of death and disease and suffering.

Prior to Jesus’ lifetime, suffering was a sign of God’s supreme displeasure. It was a tangible sign that a person’s life was out of line with God’s will, and there weren’t all that many options to get back on the inside. But, as Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote in Salvifici Doloris, “In the cross of Christ not only is the Redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed.” Because Christ chose to suffer in order to redeem the world, we too have the option of putting our suffering to use. It might not be a particularly easy option, and it doesn’t make the after effects of a sick headache go away any more quickly, but it does, at the very least give some meaning to what would otherwise be nothing more than a useless allergy to grief.

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