Today we reach on of the most debated verses in the Bible, Col 1:24. The sticky part is where Paul claims:
I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his Body, which is the Church,
The idea that there was something lacking in the suffering of Christ goes against everything thing we believe. At the center of Christian theology is the belief that the Passion of Jesus Christ was suffered once for all.
The key to understanding this verse is that St. Paul is focused on the Church, the Body of Christ. This new Body of Christ unlike his singular earthly body is just at the beginning of its formation when St. Paulnis writing. While the suffering, death and ressurection of Jesus was on one level the fulfillment, God's plan for the world must unfold over centuries. The plan will not be complete until the second coming of Christ.
In the meantime, this new Body, the Church, must slowly be filled up with new members. And this new Body, the Church will still have to suffer, just as the earthly physical body of Jesus suffered. Paul is very bluntly warning his people that the suffering is not over, it is not yet finished. There is still suffering yet to come. In that sense the suffering of the Body of Christ, is still lacking, incomplete.
When we suffer, we never suffer alone. We suffer as members of the body of Christ, the Church. The head of that body, Jesus suffers with us. So deep is his love for us. The word compassion means" to suffer with" and so the suffering of Christ,the passion of Christ continues as long as even one member of the body suffers, because he is compassion itself.
The good news is, just as our suffering is his suffering, his strength is our strength. He shares in our suffering; we share his strength. We share in his passion and his ressurection. No matter what pain we feel we must know that we are never along in our suffering, Jesus is right there with us. In fact, his entire body, the Church, suffers with us. We suffer as one.
We should never be afraid to allow our brothers and sisters to share in our moments of suffering. We should never fall into the trap of believing that our suffering is ours alone or that hiding our suffering is a sign of strength. Pretending not to suffer is mere hubris.
Paul warn us that as Christ suffer so the Church will suffer. But also provides the certain hope that just as Christ conquered, so too there is no suffering that we cannot conquer together.