Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Dear Friends,
TODAY – we continue our reflections about the mysteries of the faith. We are still with such interesting and difficult subject – the suffering:
Today, In the last consideration, I tried to lead us to the main topic of today’s reflection. I wanted to draw our attention to two incorrect interpretations of the sense of suffering existing on earth. Some explain that it is a background on which one can see the value of good. Others say that individual suffering can be a way to progress, that is, it can serve the good of future generations. I emphasized that it is never possible to build the happiness of other people on the wrong done to the individual.
Today I would like to focus on the question: How to reconcile suffering, existing on earth, with God’s justice? God is a just Judge who rewards for good and punishes evil. How should one word be understood: God “punishes” man.
First of all, a distinction should be made between punishment in the strict sense and punishment as a consequence of the evil committed. For example, the son stole a mobile phone, and his father discovered the theft and told him to return the stolen thing to the owner, and then, because it was the third subsequent theft of his son, he forbade him to use his computer and his favourite games for three weeks. The father punished the son. This is an example of punishment in the strict sense. The son committed evil. By returning the item to the owner, this evil has been repaired. However, since the remarks made so far did not work, the father searched for a punishment. Someone standing by his side, seeing his father peeking at his computer and his son’s favourite games for three weeks, would say that his father does not love him, that he is abusing him. But everyone who knows that love relies on genuine concern for the well-being of a beloved person, understands that since it has exhausted all other possibilities, it must resort to extremely drastic measures. If there is still a chance to reach a human being with the help of even a kind of longing for something that is loved, seemingly necessary, then love in the interest of his good can apply such a measure. So does God give people suffering, as did the above-mentioned father?
In our lives we can also meet with such responses of God. Sometimes people feel it as a clear admonition, or they are grateful to God for speaking in such a painful but effective way. Likewise, after many years, the child is grateful to his father for turning him away from the path of sin through his punishment. No one has any doubt that with this understanding of punishment, suffering is easy to reconcile with God’s justice. I will repeat it here again, during the 19 years of my priesthood, over 80% of the people I met, who turned back from the path of sin to the path of holiness, are people who had experience either by illness or near death, for various reasons.
We encounter such a punishment relatively rarely. We suffer much more often, bearing the consequences of sin. God’s justice is in this case closely related to the observance of His laws. Another example of life taken – Adam was 19 when he came to his friend and borrowed a motor from him. He went on the road and fell under the bus. In a very dangerous condition, he was transported to the hospital. After a few months of recovery, he left the hospital without an eye and an infected hand. He became a cripple for life. He was a very selfish and ruthless young man who was overcome by a morbid impurity towards his own body. After years of rebellion, Adam – today a thirty-eight-year-old adult thanks God for his disability, which he is convinced from the perspective of time that he would be completely lost in his young life without this accident.
In our sins, 95% of God’s justice is revealed in connection with violation of law, especially natural law. It is not God who punishes. Suffering is closely related to the act through which the man violated the law. So he is guilty and he must take full responsibility for the consequences of the violation of the law.
Most of the suffering on earth is closely related to our sins, that is, in violation of God’s law. Therefore, we cannot blame God for them, but we must address this pretension to ourselves. A man who pollutes water, air, surroundings through the desire for uncompromised profit, cannot blame God for the same dirty water, air, and polluted environment in him through various diseases, such as cancer. This is just one of many examples of the consequences of our evil, and these are just consequences. God has clearly observed – ‘you can live in paradise, in a world without suffering, but if you violate my law, which is to safeguard your happiness, you will bring suffering and death upon yourself’. God is consistent. If a man violates the law, he decides on all its consequences. I recommend here a remarkable warning from the Holy Church, which always wants to remind us of God’s law that guards our happiness and was published 50 years ago The Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI ‘Humanae Vitae’ (‘Life of Man’).
The penalty of eternal damnation is also a just consequence of sin. God will not abuse anyone. And because after death it is too late for a decision, eternal punishment becomes only a consequence of the sin we committed, against which God has loyally warned us hundreds of times. The condemned man will be aware that God did not give him such a fate, but he himself led to it.
God, Just Judge punishes for evil. Because he loves us, he punishes us for evil still on earth, so that we would come our senses, change them, before it is too late. If we say to Him – ‘Our Father’, we confess in him a loving Dad who can punish us, that we may only be happy forever, and if we add with full consciousness – ‘Our Father, Thy will be done’, that we entrust to Him our path to eternity and we let Him lead us that way, even through the cross so that we can come back to Him like his only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Whoever thoroughly traces the history of our salvation will see that God is a true, loving Father who, having exhausted all other possibilities, reaches for radical means only to reach the child, speak, protect him from extermination (eg And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell. [Mt 9,47]) The vast majority of suffering on earth and all eternal suffering are the consequences of our sin, our disobedience to the Good Father who has always served us and continues to serve us with best advice that we may be happy not for a moment, but forever.
But not all the suffering can be explained by a just punishment. On the earth still suffer many innocent people, especially innocent children who never deserved to be punished. The question, therefore, about the meaning of suffering still remains unanswered. Let us get closer to this answer, in our next consideration. Thank You for all your prayers last week.
With love and prayers and asking for yours, Fr. Marcin