The Mystery and Value of
Pain, misery, blindness, paralysis, disease, the pain of loss, floods, earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, volcanos, leprosy, poverty, slavery, totalitarianism, the death of children, the death of the innocent, the untimely death of a parent, war, persecution, famine, pestilence, the pain of separation and countless other forms of suffering are the lot of human life from the richest and most powerful to the lowliest and most impoverished. Every civilization throughout human history has tried to understand, explain and somehow deal with the reality of suffering. From the Greeks who told the story of Pandora's box and their humanlike gods who toyed with and molested them, to the philosophers of the East who saw suffering as either caused by the "illusion of individual existence" or the product of "desire and craving" as did Sidhartha Gautama (The Buddha), there have been almost as many explanations of suffering as there have been ways to suffer. The Gnostics, Zoroastrians and the Manicheans all believed in two gods one that was infinitely good and the other infinitely evil. The good god created the world of the spirit and the evil god created the material world which is filled with pain, death and sorrow. The suffering we endure, according to them, is due to the belief that our souls which contain a spark of divinity from the good god were somehow captured and imprisoned by the evil god in corrupt flesh. The atheist simply believes that suffering is just a part of material existence. According to them there is no "reason" for it and all we can do is attempt to limit it and mitigate it as much as possible. Recently a "Reformed" (translate; Modernist) Jewish Rabbi wrote a book entitled "Why Bad Things Happen to Good People." His conclusion was that God is just as upset about our suffering as we are but all He can do is watch us and commiserate with us because (according to the good Rabbi) He does not have "the ability" to stop our suffering. As a father or mother can only suffer with and for their child but cannot heal him or her of a terminal illness.
The fact that we suffer just does not make sense to humanity. We have this constant sense that there is something unnatural about pain, death, suffering, sorrow, violence and corruption. Since every culture tries to give some explanation that will at least seem logical given their own world view, then religion always seems to be the main vehicle for trying to understand this seemingly aberrant phenomenon. Of all the theories and explanations that the various cultures have put forth there is only one that makes the most sense and has the most integrated, cohesive understanding of this whole process. That explanation is the one presented by the Roman Catholic Church as it has preserved the revelation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. There are several points to remember when understanding this important subject from a Roman Catholic point of view:
1. God is infinitely good and all of finite creation reflects His goodness.
2. God is the Author of Life and His intention was that all living creatures
should remain alive.
3. God created all things in the perfection of their intended natures. He
designed the universe in perfect order and harmony.
4. Man is the pinnacle and summit of God's creation. God gave him dominion
over the physical universe.
5. Man is the author of sin, disease, corruption, pain, sorrow and death by
his act of deliberate disobedience.
6. Man wounded his nature by sin and brought about disorder and disharmony throughout the universe over which he was given dominion
7. Creation, which has been made subject to man, reflects man's spiritual state. As man's soul is disordered by sin so all of nature reflects man's disordered soul.
8. Jesus Christ is both God and Man. As the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, He became human in order to repair the damage done by sin.
9. Jesus, redeemed us through His suffering, death and resurrection. Nonetheless, we still must endure pain and suffering on earth until the General Resurrection when all of creation is made new by the redemption of Christ.
10. Jesus, by his Cross and Resurrection has sanctified suffering making it possible for each of us to use it as He did to assist Him in the redemption of individual human beings.
By remembering these 10 principles we can begin to understand the whole process which God uses for the redemption of humanity and how He uses men to save men. In turn we can become instruments of His grace in the world. In other words, by offering our suffering up and uniting it to His Cross we are capable of transforming all that is seemingly negative in the world into something powerfully good and holy. This concept is unknown within any other philosophy, theology or explanation of suffering. Jesus has taught us that suffering is not simply something one must endure but that it is a gift to be used for the sanctification of oneself and of the whole world.
"All this is as God intends, for it is your privilege to take
Christ's part-not only to believe in Himbut to suffer for Him."