For the first time last year, on the night of December 25, we did not spend the entire Christmas day together. Instead, my daughter lay on the hospital bed in the emergency room, about to be confined due to low platelet count. As I was staring blankly on the wall, it finally dawned on me that my daughter and I would have to spend the rest of the day and perhaps the entire vacation in the hospital. As an overwhelming sadness began to sink in, at that same instant, the picture of the Holy Family flashed in my mind, searching for a place to stay. And immediately, I was ashamed, realizing how blessed we were at that time and how thankful we should be. All expenses were to be covered by health insurance and we would be staying comfortably in an air-conditioned private room. The illness was curable. How could I even allow myself to be gloomy or to even think of complaining to the Lord?
So my sadness was quickly replaced by joy and thanksgiving to the Lord. How little was our suffering! The next day, while in prayer, the Lord enlightened me about the whole thing.
The Lord’s Buffet – is a buffet of opportunities to suffer. What I was experiencing simply came from this buffet. But it would be up to me – from my own free will – to accept and eat from whatever the Lord laid on the buffet table for me or to reject it right away. In His Buffet were food of all kinds and tastes – some bitter, some sweet, some bittersweet. Some looked really scrumptious but actually bitter in taste. Would I get and eat without grumbling? I ended up eating this ‘food’ without complaining and the days went by in a breeze. We missed various events. But how sweet were the ways of the Lord, who comforted our souls with His Presence, made us laugh and washed away our loneliness through prayer and gave us bountiful time to reread favorite books about saints. How great was the Lord, who allowed me and my daughter to have time away from the hectic day-to-day routines of the world, to talk and to muse about almost everything – about life, about the saints and about our Lord.
Truly, when we are with the Lord, nothing is lacking. We do not feel that we are missing anything because He alone suffices.
And again, this experience confirmed that there is sweetness in every suffering which we may find bitter at the beginning – if accepted with patience and submission to our Lord.
As weeks passed by, I continued reflecting on this Buffet of the Lord, particularly whenever I had these little ‘opportunities’ to suffer. I looked back in my early days and wished I had not thrown away ANY of the food or crumb offered by the Lord. How much from this same buffet have I rejected, thrown or spat, wasting away all those sufferings which could have nourished my own soul and the souls of others? These sufferings, as commonly explained by the saints, are ways by which we can merit something if we offer them for love to the Lord. These are such small ways to share in His Passion – to pay for our past sins (so that we do not need to pay for them in the next life), to relieve the blessed souls in purgatory, to enlighten other sinners, to strengthen the religious, the Church leaders and priests and many more. Its value is endless and unimaginable! And God grants these opportunities, in various forms, to ALL of us, day in and day out.
But we often waste our sufferings in tears and despair. I am not saying we should not cry. I happen to cry a lot. Even a brief sentimental scene from cartoons can move me to tears. But I learned later on that tears alone are useless, if not offered to the Lord. The Lord gives just a tiny bit of struggle and we cannot help but grumble and murmur. We complain about the weather, the traffic, our weight (or is it just me?), our physical food – almost anything under the sun. Unfortunately, these are all useless. Humility, however, is such a virtue to be desired. I thought, if only I could learn, through God’s Grace, to accept whatever He gives, hot sunny days and all, then I would experience true freedom – freedom from my own will, freedom from what the world expects, freedom from my own selfish and harmful desires – and experience joy in being united to the Will of God.
As I continued reading some of the lives of saints, they were all one in mind about the value of sufferings.
In the past, I used to pity those to whom God has given a tremendous illness or suffering in whatever design. Now, I watch in awe at those people, to whom God is giving this incredible main dish from His Buffet, which, if accepted humbly by these people, will merit an abundance of reward from the Lord, purifying their souls in indescribable radiance and joy. And everyday, I examine and wonder, how have I nourished myself today with the least sufferings God has personally prepared for me? Have I eaten everything? Have I wasted even a crumb of it today? Often, yes. I forget the immense value of the simplest and smallest sufferings, from which I or other souls could have gained.
How about you? How are you accepting the food that He offers for your own nourishment?
Please join me in praying:
Nourish us with food from Your Buffet.
Give us the hunger and thirst to humbly and patiently accept whatever You give us for our own spiritual health.
Adjust our palate to the sweetness of suffering here on earth, that we may desire nothing but the eternal joy of being with You in heaven.
To God be the glory.