My Dear Brother and Sister in Christ, my Friends
Today, I would like to present to You the last before Summer Holidays – thought based on the mysteries of our faith: A SENSE OF SUFFERING
How can we reconcile the omnipotence of God’s love with our suffering? I am now considering the suffering of an innocent man, the suffering of a child or the suffering of people dying of cataclysms. If God loves, He cannot inflict pain, He cannot agree to let a loved one suffer. We cannot reconcile love and suffering. With regard to God, this question is even more difficult, for we know that God’s love is omnipotent, and that God could, by one act of His will, remove all suffering from the earth.
I would like to emphasise clearly that at the moment we are touching a great mystery. Father Karl Rahner, one of the great theologians of our time, mentioned the departure of one of his friends, who suffered in a most painful way during the last months of his life. When his friend came to him a few hours before his death, he asked him: ‘What are you going to God with?’ He replied: ‘With a question I have not found an answer to. Why is there so much suffering on earth? ‘
Christ did not remove suffering, but gave it a meaning. He made it a tool for the salvation of the world. It is significant that in Scripture the first word about suffering, the word of God himself, is closely connected with birth. After the sin, God addresses the woman and utters the significant words: ‘From now on you will give birth in pain’. Suffering is closely connected with the birth of a new life, it is part of the birth process. Today, it is well known that not only the mother suffers during childbirth, but a baby also suffers, and in a very painful way, the child that is born. For a child, it is a shock to go from one world to another, and this shock is related to suffering. This suffering is also needed to leave this world in which it lives, to break free from it in order to breathe in the values of another world.
Jesus Christ, speaking about the birth of man, through which he enters the space of a new spiritual life, clearly refers to the pain of a woman who is giving birth. He has first and foremost in mind the improvement of love. This is the first step that Jesus draws attention to. Suffering, even the suffering of an innocent man, is the process of shaping his maturity. We cannot, unfortunately, answer a whole range of questions. We do not know to what extent the suffering of a tiny child, which is destroyed in the womb by abortion, contributes to shaping its maturity. But God knows that. Suffering is closely related to the process of a new birth and then it makes sense. Like a mother waiting for childbirth, she perfectly recognizes the meaning of her suffering, knowing that she must go through childbirth so that a child will be born, so our suffering is always a stage on the road leading to the birth of a new person.
The second moment to pay attention to is the fact that in every suffering we have to deal with destruction. It is always a destruction, and however spiritually, we can see the increase of the spirit, however, standing by the bed of a sick, suffering man who dies in pain, we see how suffering kills him. It destroys not only his body, but in many cases destroys his nervous system, destroys his psyche. It is a process of destruction, and yet through this process of destruction, man approaches God. Again, I will turn to the picture illustrating this problem. Suffering hits a man like a hammer hits a nail. If the nail could feel, it would be very painful for it. But it is through these impacts that the nail is set in the place where it is to fulfil its role. It is only then that the nail gains the meaning of its existence, when it is stuck where it should be. Man should be firmly immersed in God, and precise suffering striking him, drives him into God, joins him with God. And that is why it is a salvation of suffering. We feel pain, and in many cases we do not even see a meeting with God, but let us remember that strokes that involve suffering always tend to unite us with God. I repeat this again – in my priesthood I have met many more people who found God, who were reconciled with God in their suffering, painful sickness and dying than people, who were comfortable in every stage.
I emphasize this again. The suffering itself, especially the suffering of an innocent man, is evil and as evil cannot be justified. If it were possible to justify it, it would not be evil. However, if I am sitting in a dentist’s chair and I am suffering the removal of a bad tooth, then the pain I feel is not evil. This is good. This temporary suffering will bring me health. Suffering justified and explained is not evil. But innocent suffering is inexcusable and therefore Jesus Christ gives it new meaning. Jesus turned innocent suffering into an act of saving love. This is the mystery of Christ’s cross. From now on, anyone who can accept suffering and offer it to God can do more than one decade of creative work within one hour. Because creative work is above all a temporal dimension, and suffering has an eternal dimension. In this situation, human suffering becomes a great deed, a great work. A mature attitude to suffering is rewarded by the Just Judge as one of the greatest, most wonderful deeds. That is why Christians boast of those who have been able to suffer for Christ, who have been able to suffer innocently. The greatest heroes are those who have matured by unjust suffering.
This contemplation of today can also make us aware of the basic truth: Christ gave meaning to all suffering on earth. Still, the mystery remains a question: Why did God not remove suffering? We see that through the existence of suffering, salvation is accomplished, but why it is done through suffering is still a mystery. This cave of mystery of suffering, discovered with Christ, is even deeper.
The dying friend of Fr. Rahner rightly said, ‘I am going to God to ask him: Why is there so much innocent suffering on earth?’ He must have already recognized its saving sense, he must have received the answer from God Himself. We still do not know why God, when loving, accepts suffering. We cannot answer this question. Christ calls us to improve ourselves and to discover the meaning of life, and by following this path we will see the meaning of suffering and death, because these are essential elements of the mystery of life. Christ is our only Guide in suffering and death. Deuteronomy can be implemented only by God on the principle of private revelation.
With love, friendship and prayers – Fr Marcin