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Comments on Life


Pope Benedict XVI

The measure of one’s capacity for happiness depends on the measure of the premiums one has paid, on the measure of one’s readiness to accept the full passion of being human.
 The crisis of our age is made very real by the fact that we would like to flee from it; that people mislead us into thinking that one can be human without overcoming oneself, without the suffering of renunciation and the hardship of self-control; that people mislead us by claiming that there is no need for the difficulty of remaining true to what one has undertaken and the patient endurance of the tension between what one ought to be and what one actually is.
 An individual who has been freed from all effort and led into the fool’s paradise of his dreams loses what is most essential, himself. There is, in fact, no other way in which one can be saved than by the cross. All offers that promise a less costly way will founder, will prove to be false. The hope of Christianity, the outlook of faith, ultimately rest quite simply on the fact that faith tells the truth. The outlook of faith is the outlook of the truth that may be obscured and trampled upon, but can never perish.
"The Passion and Sacrifice of Being Human." )


Pope John Paul II on Suffering: 

“Indeed, it is only by contemplating the unfathomed beauty of humanity's final destiny—eternal life in heaven—that the multitude of daily joys and sorrows can be adequately explained, enabling people to embrace life's challenges with the confidence born of faith and hope.”
[John Paul II’s address to the bishops from New Zealand during their ad limina visit to Rome, on September 13, 2004.]

“Christ does not explain in the abstract the reasons for suffering, but before all else he says:  ‘Follow me!’ Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my Cross. Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the Cross of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him.”   [The Christian Meaning of Suffering] 

“In the light of Christ's death and resurrection, illness no longer appears as an exclusively negative event … Rather, it is seen as … an opportunity to release love … , to transform the whole of human civilization into a civilization of love.”  [Message for the First Annual World Day of the Sick (1993)]

“[S]uffering in itself can conceal a secret value and become a path of purification, interior liberation and enrichment of the soul. It is an invitation to overcome superficiality, vanity, selfishness and sin, and to trust more intensely in God and his saving will. …
[Pope John Paul II weekly audience on June 2, 2004, commenting on Psalm 41: Prayer of a sick man betrayed by his friends.]


Pope Francis I

We can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ, things go wrong. We may become a charitable NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of the Lord. When we are not walking, we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones, what happens? The same thing that happens to children on the beach when they build sandcastles: everything is swept away, there is no solidity. When we do not profess Jesus Christ, the saying of Léon Bloy comes to mind: "Anyone who does not pray to the Lord prays to the devil." When we do not profess Jesus Christ, we profess the worldliness of the devil, a demonic worldliness.

Journeying, building, professing. But things are not so straightforward, because in journeying, building, professing, there can sometimes be jolts, movements that are not properly part of the journey: movements that pull us back.

This Gospel continues with a situation of a particular kind. The same Peter who professed Jesus Christ, now says to him: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. I will follow you, but let us not speak of the Cross. That has nothing to do with it. I will follow you on other terms, but without the Cross. When we journey without the Cross, when we build without the Cross, when we profess Christ without the Cross, we are not disciples of the Lord, we are worldly: we may be bishops, priests, cardinals, popes, but not disciples of the Lord.

My wish is that all of us, after these days of grace, will have the courage, yes, the courage, to walk in the presence of the Lord, with the Lord’s Cross; to build the Church on the Lord’s blood which was poured out on the Cross; and to profess the one glory: Christ crucified. And in this way, the Church will go forward.
(First homily March 14, 2013)


C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis in his  ‘Screwtape Letters’  has the main character, the demon Screwtape, instruct his apprentice Wormwood as to why God sends us  “dry times:”

”He [God]  will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs; to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best. We can drag our patients along by continual temptation, because we design them for the table, and the more their will is interfered with the better. He cannot "tempt" them to virtue as we do to vice. He wants them to learn to walk and must therefore take away His hand; and if only the will to walk is really there, He is pleased even with their stumbles. Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do our Enemy's will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”


Webmaster’s comments on suffering 

Does God Cause us to suffer ? 

No.  God doesn’t cause us to suffer.  Suffering came into the world with Original Sin.  When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden the human race was separated from God who is the source of all that is good.  As a consequence suffering was brought upon the whole human race. 

Suffering is partly a mystery.  Even though God is all loving and all powerful He allows us to suffer, but by doing so He reveals that He has a greater purpose for allowing it.  Whatever suffering we are asked to endure is not as great as the reward that God is going to bless us with in Heaven. 

God wants us to love Him, to give ourselves to Him, because He loves us so much.  He even died on the cross that we might be united with Him in heaven.  We are sometimes asked to give up the worldly things that we almost desire the most so that we might make Him the One that we do desire the most.  The hardest thing to give Him is our sufferings, that is, to offer it up to Him with faith, faith that His will is best even while He allows us to sometimes suffer.  And we are asked to believe that He still loves us and to have faith and hope in Him and that His will is best for us.  He knew that suffering would be hard to endure.  Since God created the world He has created all the spiritual truths that govern the world.  He could have Redeemed us any way that He chose.  We are extremely blessed that He chose to Redeem us by suffering.  By doing so, He has made our own sufferings holy and redemptive when they are united to His, that is filled with His grace, so that our offering of our sufferings to Him are accomplished by His grace working in and through us.  And by choosing to Redeem us by suffering He has made our own sufferings less difficult. 


Advantages for us in that God chose to redeem us by His Suffering: 

We can see His love more clearly.  If a billionaire gives away a thousand dollars that it not going to convince us that he is truly generous or loving.  God’s love in the midst of His suffering demonstrates its true worth. 

The sufferings and crosses that Christ asks us to bear are in invitation to strengthen the faith and love in our hearts.  Suffering moves us to deepen our trust in God’s Divine Providence and it moves our heart to charity for others who suffer. 

It would be wrong to view the battle between Good and evil as if Satan was almost getting the upper hand against God and then at the last minute God pulls out his star player, Jesus Christ, who only wins the battle at the last minute. God’s side is always winning.  We might just not be able to see that here below.  Our acceptance of our crosses in life that are done in faith and obedience to His Divine Will is when Jesus is most manifesting His glory in us. 


Why did He give the stigmata, the wounds He suffered on the cross, to some of the Saints ? 

These saints willfully accepted with thankfulness the suffering of the stigmata.  Suffering in and of itself is not redeeming.  So, an appropriate question is, what makes some suffering worthwhile ?   Obviously we have to accept some forms of suffering.  If the only way to escape from a certain suffering is by sinning then we are called to accept that suffering and avoid the sin.  We are called to accept this, in faith that our all powerful God allows it  *because*  He loves us so much, and accepting it with faith which allows us to have thankfulness in our hearts to God, not for the suffering in and of itself, but rather for the fruits that come to us by God's grace in the suffering.  The Saints who humbly asked to share in the sufferings of the stigmata were seeking a greater good. 

Romans 8:28 
“We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.” 


Why does God ask us to accept suffering  ? 

I sense that there is a strong evangelistic point that we can make to non-Christians ( and to Christians as well - like myself whose heart is so slow)   here about the meaning of life, suffering, and love and how the Catholic Gospel gives us powerful insight into these mysteries.   The points to be learned are not just some abstract intellectual theories.  They have to be learned in the heart with love, and often through suffering.  Yet, they are not so much what we accomplish as they are gifts given to us by our Heavenly Father.   We probably would do well to point out that God is not the cause of suffering and that He doesn't ask us to suffer for the sake of suffering, but in order that we might attain to some greater good, that is, to know Him so that we might learn to a deeper degree Christ's love for us, to be more like Him and to increase our love for Him, and to be more effective in becoming channels of God's grace to others.  The reason that God has made us is to know, to love, and to serve Him in this life in order that we might be forever happy with Him in the next life. 


Learning about suffering 

The best way to learn about the mystery of suffering is through a life that is prayerful and obedient to Jesus Christ as we meditate on His passion and on the lives of the Saints in the context of the faith, hope, and love in which they lived. 

Sacrifice comes from the Latin words  "Sacra"  and  "Facio. "
Sacra means holy, and Facio means to make, so the compound implies
"to make holy. "  Saint Augustine (V430 AD) gave the classical definition of sacrifice in his City of God,  “A true sacrifice is any work that unites us to God in holy fellowship.” (10.6) 




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Making Sense Out of Suffering
Tackles questions related to the nature of suffering, evil and sin

The Problem of Pain — 
A commentary on C.S. Lewis's brilliant exposition on the problems of suffering and evil

A Grief Observed
C.S. Lewis's personal and honest account of the loss of his wife, and how God deepened his love

The Dark Side
Shining light on three kinds of evil:
suffering, death and sin