The word “alchemy” is defined by my dictionary software as:
“-An imaginary art which aimed to transmute the baser metals
into gold, to find the panacea, or universal remedy for
diseases, etc. It led the way to modern chemistry.
– Miraculous power of transmuting something common into
In other words, something is transformed from a lesser into a more valuable thing.
As a part of my Lenten practices, I have been meditating on the nature of suffering and what it means. Mostly, on how to cope with it. For as Christians, we are called to accept sufferings, not reject them or escape from them. By accepting them, we unite ourselves to the Cross of Christ and as St. Paul says in 1 Cor 24: “For now I rejoice in my passion on your behalf, and I complete in my flesh the things that are lacking in the Passion of Christ, for the sake of his body, which is the Church.”
Not that there is anything deficient in Christ’s passion and death, but as members of His Mystical Body (The Church) our sufferings are united to His.
And so I finally get around to the word “alchemy.” In the art of transforming something that is a lesser into something that is a greater, we can see how we can transform suffering into a good. We typically consider suffering to be “bad,” but that is a worldly opinion. But we can use it anyway, here.
The key step in the spiritual alchemy process is love. Specifically, our love for Jesus. If we love Jesus, then we will accept our sufferings for the love of Him.
Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If anyone is willing to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.'”
If you love someone, you sacrifice for them. Our sacrifices are our daily crosses, be they little or great. We offer them up to the Lord.
This was the “Way of Matt Talbot,” he transferred his love for the drink onto Jesus. He suffered the loss of his crutch, alcohol, but used that suffering to increase his love for Christ, since it was for Jesus that he suffered. Matt knew that Jesus is the “Way, the Truth and the Life,” and thus he accepted sobriety as his path to Jesus.
The offering up of one’s suffering to Jesus is the mean by which we transform the pain of the suffering into a good. As Christ suffered for love of us, we return that by suffering for love of Him.
It is also the “Little Way” of St. Therese of Lisieux. Doing little things for the love of Jesus and others, accepting sufferings as an expression of love for Him who suffered and died for us.
I have a pain, a suffering, doesn’t matter what it is specifically. I can either bemoan it, drink over it, endure it grumpily, or say “Jesus, this pain is afflicting me; I offer it up to you so that I can join you on the Cross. For love of you I accept this pain.” The pain is then transformed by your love into some incredible spiritual benefits, namely God flooding you with graces.
Graces are the free, undeserved and unmerited blessings or spiritual assistance God gives you. They are “undeserved” or are “unmerited” because God isn’t obligated to give them to you; for when you offer something “in love,” you do so without expecting anything in return.
You may not feel better right away, you may not sense anything. It doesn’t work that way. But you might be given endurance and fortitude; the abilities to “get through” the trials better.
He may not return your gift right away, He may allow the suffering to continue for a period. This isn’t cruelty, it is the consequence of our Fallen Nature and Fallen World. Suffering is a part of life and it continues… However, faithfully enduring suffering even when you do not think that you are “getting anything in return” still increases your dependence on God, for you know, in Faith, you love Him and need Him and will do so anyway, even if there is no immediate benefit. True love knows no boundaries, you will do anything for the One that you love. While things happen in God’s time and not ours, the fortitude and endurance, if not outright cessation of the suffering, or consolations of a spiritual nature will eventually manifest themselves. For God is a loving Father who knows what is best for us and does provide for our needs (rarely our wants.)
Matthew 7:11 “Therefore, if you, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your sons, how much more will your Father, who is in heaven, give good things to those who ask him?”
In not using suffering this way, it just remains an unbearable pain that causes us to seek relief in ways not always good for us. We seek relief in alcohol, drugs, illicit sex, abortion, euthanasia, whatever it is that can “eliminate the problem.”
But in seeing it as a way of proving our love for Christ, (if not in proving it to Him, but in bearing witness to others), suddenly it has value. It is a “lesser,” (something undesired) that is transformed by a process of spiritual alchemy into something of great value.
What greater value can there be by becoming more like unto Christ? The possibility of this helping us gain Heaven?
Perhaps…Know someone, perhaps yourself, who might like Catholic devotionals for alcoholics? Please take a look at my books! (Thank you!!)"The Stations of the Cross for Alcoholics"