Christ doesn’t guarantee a pain-free life
Those who think the Christian life inoculates a person from suffering are sadly mistaken, but Christ promises to remain with them when suffering occurs, Deacon Josh Johnson told 320 teens and young adults at a Youth and Young Adult Revival March 16 at St. Mary of the Angels Church.
Deacon Johnson is a transitional deacon, studying at Notre Dame Seminary, who will be ordained a priest for the Diocese of Baton Rouge on May 31.
He was the featured speaker at the annual revival, sponsored by the archdiocesan CYO Youth & Young Adult Ministry Office and the Office of Black Catholic Ministries.
Deacon Johnson told a story about a close friend whose wife developed a serious illness shortly after they were married. The young wife is paralyzed, blind and deaf, and her husband is her caretaker.
“This is not how he expected his marriage to turn out,” Deacon Johnson said. “For the past 3 1/2 years, he comes home from work every day to bathe her and feed her.
“He told me, ‘That’s what I do Josh.’ I’m in love with my wife. That’s why I do this. I can’t take a vacation from the vocation God has called me to.”
A vocational wakeup call
Deacon Johnson said he left that conversation with his friend and went to the seminary and got on his knees before the Blessed Sacrament.
“I said, ‘God, can I ever love you like that, the way he loves his wife?’” Deacon Johnson said. “There was silence. And so I shut up. And after that, I heard him say, ‘Josh, will you let me love you like that?’”
Deacon Johnson talked about his own vocation to the priesthood and explained how he didn’t think God would be able to love him knowing how he had fallen short as a Christian in the past.
He said he would be bombarded with thoughts from the devil: “Look where you come from. Look at your past. There’s no way God’s calling you to be a saint.”
But Deacon Johnson said, “These are lies that the enemy uses to attack us.”
There will still be suffering after a person comes into a deeper relationship with Christ, he said.
“When Jesus Christ came, he never said the disciples would never suffer any more,” Deacon Johnson said. “What he said was, ‘Do not be discouraged.’
“Though the outer self is wasting away, the inner self is being renewed day by day. Where is God when we suffer? He’s right there on the cross with us in our suffering.”
Deacon Johnson asked the congregation not to “settle for the goods of this earth as our main goal.”
“Our main goal must always be Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ crucified,” he said. “Whenever Jesus is our main goal for all eternity, then we, too, can say with St. Paul and all the many other saints that nothing was the same when Jesus Christ came.”