Peace from the Lamb of God
This Easter, remember how good God is to us. (Plus a great recipe for lamb chops!)
BY JEFF YOUNG
I don’t suffer well. I wish I did, but the sad fact is that I don’t. I have witnessed other people suffer well … men, women, and children who experience accidents, sickness, and losses with grace and humility. Historically, I have not been one of those people. However, I could argue (cautiously!) that I have improved over the years.
After all, age does have a way of slowing us down and reminding us of our limitations, and God is still in the business of working wonders. So perhaps I have improved some during the last four decades. Even if that’s true, however, from my perspective it’s been only slightly. The good news is that today is a new day. I can begin again … with God’s grace.
But why talk of suffering? Are we not now in the Easter season? Isn’t Lent over? Yes, Lent is finished, and we are now celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. He is alive! And he has taken our sufferings upon himself and conquered sin and death. But I’ll let you in on a little secret: I still sin. My wife still sins. Our kids still sin. As a matter of fact, every human being I know still sins. And in a myriad of big and small ways, we still suffer. Daily.
It’s true that suffering is different now, in light of the Resurrection. Jesus not only took on all our suffering, he transformed suffering itself, which is why St. Gemma Galgani was able to say, “If you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer, because suffering teaches you to love.”
I was struck by this quote recently, and it impacted my prayer life in an odd way. Much like the scratched records I used to play on the turntable of my youth, my prayer got stuck, playing these same words over and over again. Love. Learn. Suffering … Love. Learn. Suffering. I knew there was a connection there, some important message I just wasn’t getting. It reminded me of the beginnings of my faith journey.
I had a profound experience of Jesus when I was 16, an experience that changed the course of my life. There were no flashes of light, no visions, no spiritual fireworks — I just knew that I knew Jesus was real, he knew me, and he loved me. I fell in love with Jesus. And I wanted to love him more and more. I was self-aware enough at 16 to realize that my capacity to love was limited, but I did not know how to increase it. I prayed to love Jesus more, and I secretly longed to dazzle him with my love.
I dreamed of grandiose acts of love: becoming a missionary, living among and serving the poorest of the poor, maybe suffering mystically with the stigmata, or engaging in epic battles with the forces of evil. Meanwhile, back in real life, getting a splinter in my finger, or a paper cut, or having my parents ask me to take out the garbage would launch me into fits of indignation.
I had not yet learned the great secret of suffering. I had not learned that suffering done well increases our capacity to love. I thought I was meant to dazzle and impress Jesus — and everyone else. I recognize that desire now as spiritual pride. I was so blind! It took me decades to realize that Jesus doesn’t want me to dazzle him; instead he wants me to be dazzled by him, by my wife, my children, my friends, and my faith community. To be dazzled by the people that I am privileged to encounter and to serve in my life.
And the great teacher of this lesson? Suffering. Not the romanticized notion of suffering that had me starring in some fantasy melodrama (like receiving the stigmata!), but rather a never-ending river of splinters and paper cuts and bruised relationships — events in my life that make me painfully aware of my own limitations, weaknesses, and needs. Every time I come up short, Jesus shows me that he is here. And he is enough.
The experience of suffering is rarely pretty. It’s never something I would have chosen, but by God’s grace I don’t fight against it as much as I used to. Little by little I am learning to accept it for what it is when it enters my life. Not because I am a saint, but because I’ve learned that accepting it makes carrying the burden of suffering a little easier.
I never would have chosen Hurricane Katrina, nor the seven years of heartache that we endured in her wake as we struggled to rebuild our lives. I never would have chosen for my children to have experienced the pain of displacement and the ensuing financial struggles. I never would have chosen to be deceived by someone who appeared to be a friend, whose deception ended up costing us our home, a sizable investment, all our savings, a deception that robbed my kids of joy during the key years of their childhood.
I wouldn’t have chosen any of it. But it all happened. And I didn’t handle it well. It took seven years for Jesus to work on my heart enough and heal my heart so I could forgive that individual. And wouldn’t you know it, Jesus arranged the perfect setting for it: Easter Sunday Mass. At the sign of peace. The gentleman happened to be about 10 feet away from me. I offered to him the same peace Jesus has offered to me. I left Mass that day filled with the joy of the Resurrection.
Jesus is the Lamb of God. He takes away the sins of the world. He takes away my sins; he takes away your sins. Every year on Sundays during the Easter season, I prepare these lamb chops for my family. I do so because they are delicious, true — but also because they area tangible reminder, a tasty symbol, of how good God is to us, even in the midst of suffering.
- 6 to 8 lamb chops
- Extra virgin olive oil, enough to coat the lamb chops
- Coarse ground kosher salt to taste
- Dried Greek seasoning (oregano, rosemary, thyme, cracked black pepper, and red pepper flakes), all to taste
- 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
- Remove lamb chops from packaging, rinse with cold water, then pat dry with paper towels. Place in a pan to marinate.
- Coat each side of the lamb chops with olive oil.
- Sprinkle both sides of the lamb chops with salt (to taste) and a generous amount of the Greek seasoning. Rub it in.
- Crush 4 cloves of garlic and sprinkle it on and around the chops.
- Cover the dish and put in the refrigerator to marinate. Marinate for a few hours (but at least 1 hour).
- When you are ready to cook, remove the lamb from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature, about 20 to 30 minutes.
- Heat the grill between 425 degrees to 450 degrees. When heated, lay the lamb chops out on the grill. Grill them for 3 or 4 minutes on each side (depending on how cooked you prefer your lamb).