From the Director - Mission and the suffering Christ

Fr Trevor Trotter

One of the biggest challenges for people when they retire is, “What am I going to do?” So much of our lives are lived in the external world, but there is always the internal world - the world of the spirit. As we age, the external world shrinks, and the internal world expands. Our mission as Christians is usually in the external world when we are younger, but later in life, it moves to the level of our spirit.

This is true also for Columbans coming back from mission overseas. It is hard to find something to do. They have spent years living and working with people in big parishes or other projects that have demanded a lot of energy. The need of the people is great, and there is no end to the ministry in which our priests and lay missionaries are involved. We Columbans need to discover our internal mission.

When sickness and old age catch up with us, how do we understand our internal world? What do we mean by our spirituality? What is happening within our spirit? It is more mysterious and much deeper than we might think.

In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says, “When I was hungry, you fed me”. The people on his right say, “When was that?” His answer: “Whenever you did it to one of my people, you did it to me.” In other words, Jesus is hungry with the hungry. He is in prison with the prisoners. He is suffering with all who suffer. His love for all our brothers and sisters is total. If any of us suffer, he suffers with us.

Columbans have seen plenty of God’s sons and daughters suffer. It is an extremely difficult experience. When you see people that are always hungry, or people having to walk a mile to fill up a big container with water and carry it all the way back to the village, you feel powerless. What can we do to help? Sickness, injustice, the day-to-day struggle to make a living - these things are commonplace. The suffering Christ is clearly there. The suffering Christ is everywhere and in everyone. We all carry pain, and he shares our yoke and helps to make the burden light.

St Paul says that we are in Christ and Christ is in us. This means that when we suffer with him, we also experience the resurrection with him. We are in the suffering and risen Christ. This is happening today. This describes something of the depth of what it means to be a Christian. We are all involved in something deeply mysterious.

By sharing in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in our own living, suffering and dying, we can also share in the love of Christ that brings life to the whole world, to the whole universe. This is rather amazing.

Most of us do not think we have much influence on the whole world. From the outside, we may not seem important, but to think that we are part of the suffering and risen Christ, who is in the whole world, the whole universe, is rather amazing. We are connected to everyone and everything by being in Christ.

What about the pain and suffering of old age? Does our dying have any point? Is it only a way to transition to the next life, or can it have value in itself? Jesus’ dying opened the way for God to raise him from the dead, to bring new life, not only to Jesus, but to the whole of created reality.

Likewise, if we embrace our suffering and our dying as part of God’s loving plan for us, we too create space for God-given new life, not only for ourselves but for everyone and everything else. At that point, our mission on earth is complete, and we move to the next phase.

Fr Trevor Trot-ter signature

Fr Trevor Trotter
Regional Director of Oceania

Listen to "From the Director"

Related links

The Far East - New Subscription

Code : 4



Annual subscription to The Far East magazine, published by St Columbans Mission Society 8 times per year. It features mission articles and photographs by Columban Missionaries from the countries where they work.


See all products