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Reflections on Human Suffering

by Claudia McDonnell

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(Editor’s Note – The italicized quotes are from the Holy Father’s letter.)

Satan never lied more cleverly than he did in the Garden of Eden, when he made his empty promise to Eve. The fruit of the forbidden tree would not cause her to die, he said; it would make her like God. Eve ate the fruit, and gave it to Adam, and they learned how foolish they had been to believe the Father of Lies. By their sin they brought suffering into the world. Their disobedience spawned every variety of pain, both physical torment and the anguish of mind and heart.

God in His mercy not only sent His Son to atone for original sin and to open the gates of Paradise, He went further. He transformed suffering, the bitter fruit of sin, and made it the means by which all people might indeed become like God. By our suffering we participate in Christ’s redemption. We become like God in pain and humiliation, that we might become like Him in the radiance of the Resurrection.

Christ has told us that no one comes to the Father except through Him. In the same way, no one comes to Christ without following Him to Calvary. The road is difficult and the journey is filled with pain. There are times when the image of the Risen Christ, resplendent in victory, fades behind a film of tears and is replaced by the Man of Sorrows, tortured and humiliated. The sky darkens and we cry out with Job, “I will speak from the bitterness of my soul. I will say to God: ‘…Let me know why you oppose me.’”

“Man can put this question to God with all the emotion of his heart and with his mind full of dismay and anxiety; and God expects the question and listens to it.”

God understands our confusion and anguish over suffering. He gives us consolation far beyond what was given to Job. He gives us His Son. Christ is Love incarnate, God Himself come to earth not only to redeem His creatures but to share their lives, to feel what they feel, to learn what it is to be human. Caryll Houselander, the English Catholic writer, said, “To the Christian, suffering is not a problem to be explored by the human mind, but a mystery to be experienced by the human heart.” This is the great humility of God, that he took for Himself a human heart, in order to suffer alongside His creation.

“Christ…was sensitive to every human suffering, whether of the body or of the soul.”

It would be wrong to think that Jesus approved of suffering for its own sake, or that He was content to sympathize with those in pain. He proved His compassion for them in the simplest way, by healing them. He cleansed the sores of lepers. He gave sight to the blind. He made the lame and the paralyzed walk again, He touched the sick and gave them health and strength. Those who suffered in mind and soul cried out to Him, and He heard their pleas; He cast out demons, He cured the centurion’s beloved servant, He restored life to the little daughter of Jairus. He was so moved at the sight of the widow of Naim weeping over her dead son that he brought the son back to life.

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Tags: Prayers/Hymns/Saints Reflections/Inspirational