Pain, Suffering, and the Sons of Thunder

October 16, 2021

"Suffering and pain is a reality of existence." 


The psalmist tells us that the lifespan of man is seventy years, or eighty for those who are strong, and most of these are emptiness and pain.Our Lord promised us that following Him would not bring us comfort and ease but rather persecution and death. But we know that God makes all things work towards the good, so what is the purpose of our suffering?

In today’s Gospel, the sons of Zebedee do not know what they are asking. They are still thinking in terms of an earthly kingdom with royal privileges and honors. But rather than flatly deny them, Jesus instead tries to make them understand that what they have asked for is to share in His passion. They readily assure Jesus that they can handle it. Our Lord then promises them that they will indeed share in His cup.

Isaiah speaks of the suffering servant who gives up his life that many will be justified. This is what James and John have asked to share in, to suffer for the sake of others.

For James this prophecy was fulfilled 14 years later. At that time Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, was “king” over Judea and Samaria. In his great zeal to please the people, Herod Agrippa perpetuated cruelties against the Church, whose rapid growth caused much anxiety among the Jewish people.

Perhaps because of his famous temper, and his part in leading the early Jewish Christian communities, James was arrested. The Book of Acts tells us that Herod Agrippa killed James, the brother of John, with the sword.

John, the beloved disciple, was also persecuted by authorities. According to tradition several attempts were made on his life. He was, at different times, handed a cup of poison, and tossed into a cauldron of boiling oil, neither of which had any effect on him. Finally he was exiled to Patmos, an island in Aegean Sea still in the grip of the Roman Gods. There, far from the center of 1st century political life, John lived a solitary life.

When Emperor Domition died, it is said John returned to Ephesus where he lived out the remainder of his life.

Theologians and philosophers have long debated why God allows suffering in the world. Perhaps this is the closest we will ever come to an answer.

In a miraculous and mysterious way, all suffering, sickness, torture, and martyrdom, endured for the sake of Christ and His Gospel is united to the suffering of Christ on the cross. And as we share in His suffering we also share in the fruits of that passion. Our sorrows united with those of Christ are offered for the redemption and atonement of the many.

We have been baptized into His passion and death. Our sufferings are our portion of the cup promised to those who believe in Him and follow Him, a cup that is also the source of our salvation. Let us confidently approach the throne of grace, and partake in that saving cup.

Pax Vobiscum
29th Sunday in Ordinary Time


© Lawrence Klimecki

Saint Georgr © Lawrence Klimecki

Purchase fine art prints by Deacon Lawrence here.

Deacon Lawrence draws on ancient Christian tradition to create new contemporary art that seeks to connect the physical and the spiritual.. For more information on original art, prints and commissions, Please visit 

Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith


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