Thursday, 25 May 2017

On Suffering


The world seems like a dark place right now, despite the joy of the Easter season rounding out and Pentecost coming up. The recent terror attack in the Northern England city of Manchester on Mon., May 22 at an Ariana Grande concert has me feeling sad and teary when I read the news coverage. Twenty-two people lost their lives, may under the age of 18 and even one beautiful little eight-year-old girl. 59 are now facing the long road to recovery from injuries that are physical, emotional and, no doubt, mental. 

I also found out a few days ago about a tragic canoeing accident in the city that my husband and I lived in for eight years that claimed the lives of two fathers and two of their sons -- the youngest of whom was a six-year-old boy. 

It can be so hard at times like this not to feel anxious, depressed and even to have doubts about our faith. All of this is totally normal. Unfortunately, terror attacks have become more commonplace in our troubled world, and accidents are always a sad possibility in some situations. Still, it's not hard to end up feeling sad, drained and jaded sometimes.

I was talking to someone close to me not too long ago about how it can be so hard to see the suffering that goes on in the world. We oftentimes want to put ourselves in the shoes of those who are suffering, to share some of their pain. I know that any time I hear of tragedy striking young children, I can't help but ask God why He lets things like this happen. And why are some people so blessed and lucky -- like those of us living in a developed, peaceful nation who have plenty to eat and a roof over our heads, and so much more -- while others seem to live a life of non-stop suffering, like a refugee family facing danger every day, or the poorest of the poor in the back alley slums of third-world countries? What about people -- even children -- who suffer with illnesses of all kinds? 

Not too long ago I felt angry with God, wondering, if He is all-powerful, how He can allow sweet children to suffer and die. I told him, "Lord, I feel angry with You. I'm sorry I'm feeling like this, but I'm human and I can't help it. Why does this happen, Lord? Why can't you step in and perform some huge miracle, like I read about in the Bible? Why can't Jesus just return now and set things right?" 

I still don't know the answers to those questions. I likely never will -- not while I'm living on this earth, anyway. But my anger with God was fleeting and foolish. God is so far above me, and my understanding is a drop in the ocean compared to His. I've learned that when I don't understand, I just need to let go and rest in God's love.

Because even when we're angry with Him, He loves us. Even when we hurt Him, He cares. We may not understand the suffering in this world, but we do know this: God came into the world, in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, and he suffered terribly because of and for us. So He certainly cares, and certainly understands.

What does the Bible say about suffering? St. Paul reveals, in the Bible, the salvific meaning of suffering. We can unite ourselves to Christ through our suffering and also offer up that same suffering to Him, even though we may not ever understand it. 

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God depends on faith; that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his suffering, becoming like him in his death, that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead" -- Philippians 3:8-11

A wonderful article on the Catholic News Agency says that, according to St. Paul, suffering enters us into the mystery of Christ, and lets us participate in His Passion, which is necessary for our salvation.

In Krakow, Poland this past July, Pope Francis said,"By dying on the cross, He surrendered Himself into the hands of the Father, taking upon Himself and in Himself, with self-sacrificing love, the physical, moral and spiritual wounds of all humanity." 

So we can see that even though we may not understand our suffering, we know that Christ is with us throughout it all. Continuing to speak to the crowd of young people in Blonia Park, he talked about how some questions, like where God is when people suffer and die, or other tragedy strikes, cannot be answered. "We can only look to Jesus and ask him. And Jesus' answer is this: 'God is in them.' Jesus is in them; he suffers in them and deeply identifies with each of them. He is so closely united to them as to form with them, as it were, 'one body.'"

But going even farther than that, the Holy Father says that the only answer to evil is mercy -- and for us believers, that means "spiritual and corporal works of mercy". 

So how can we show mercy? How can each and every once of us bring more peace into this world and fight back the evil that threatens to win the day? It can seem daunting. I'd love to be able to do more charitably -- to give money on a regular basis to some good cause, but I'm not there right now. I am a stay-at-home mum, and while I do bring in some money from freelancing, my husband takes care of almost all of our expenses. We're also saving for our children's education. We give to our local parish each Sunday and make charitable donations every once in awhile, when we can. 

But mercy and charity aren't always about money. How often do you pray about the needs of the world, and not just your own needs and those of your family and inner circle? Prayer is so important, and it's something we can all do -- a spiritual work of mercy that can become a reality for all of us.

How else can we promote peace and mercy? Well, when you're waiting for the grocery clerk to bag your groceries, do you smile at them? Do you engage them in chit-chat and ask them how they're doing? Do you thank them? Do you go out of your way to try to brighten the day of everyone you come into contact with? Do you pour love into your spouse and your children, setting aside your stress and obligations?

It's something we should all be striving for. And above all, those of us who are lucky enough to be fathers and mothers, grandparents, teachers and anyone who plays a part in the life of a child? Well, we have a very high calling. We can do everything that's in our power to raise up a generation for Christ -- a generation of boys and girls, who will become men and women, who will shine like stars lighting up the night sky with their acts of love, devotion and peace. Our children can indeed change the world, but it's up to us to lay the foundation. 

photo credit: Aida diLeto Lundquist <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/21776013@N06/34005452764">WHY?</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/">(license)</a>

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