Pope Francis often focuses his attention on those who sufferthe materially poor, migrants, refugees, the sick, the aged. It’s an antidote to the belief that Christianity is all about “pie in the sky after you die.” And it’s a response to the so-called “Prosperity gospel,” which says that if you believe in Jesus Christ you will not suffer. But the Pope, as he has recently, often reminds us that suffering is a part of our human existence.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds the disciples that he himself will suffer. It was a hard message for them to hear. In general, they expected a Messiah who would be triumphant, particularly over the Roman authorities, not one who would suffer and die. In proclaiming his message he knew that he would come under attack, as the prophets did before him. Yet he was willing to undergo such attacks so that we might encounter God more deeply in our lives.

We do not have a God who does not understand our suffering. We have one who understands perfectly well, because he underwent it all himself.  Can this help you enter into a deeper relationship with God?

—Fr. James Martin, SJ, is the author of our special series of reflections in honor of Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. Fr. Martin is associate editor of America magazine; a frequent commentator in the media; and author of many books, including, most recently, Jesus: A Pilgrimage and his novel The Abbey.