by Ken Rolheiser
Pain, meaning and the filter of Christ’s love

A man goes to the doctor complaining about back pain and the doctor notices the man's terrible posture.
"Do you have any idea why you have such awful posture?" asks the doctor.
"Well", replies the man, "I've got a hunch."

In his introduction to What’s It All About: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life Baggini asks: “Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Is it enough just to be happy? Is my life serving some greater purpose? Are we here to help others or just ourselves?”

In the end Baggini concludes that the answer is personal and depends upon our asking the correct questions. As Christians we have the advantage of viewing the world through the filter of Christ’s love. Just being a Christian gives us an edge. How would Christ answer the question?

One aspect of the problem that presents a challenge to many of us is simply: what is the meaning of suffering? What meaning is there to accidental death or contracting Covid-19? 

Returning to our Christian metaphor, the filter of Christ’s love, we see that we are constantly in the love of God and that we are to love others as constantly. Forgiveness is daily and unconditional, as is God’s love.

Suffering, when it befalls us, finds us still inside that glow of Christ’s love, and inside the love of care-givers who are servants of God, though they may work in your local hospital.

This is not something I have just “made up”. It has been around for 2000 years as Christians leave their Sunday encounter with Christ and go forth to love and serve the community.

I feel reassured as I go forth on Sunday or any other day that my suffering, when and as it comes in life, will be united with the suffering of Christ. We are part of Christ, after all. He became man, and now we in turn strive to become Christ.

Christ sanctified our suffering through his participation in mankind. His prime directive was to reconcile us to God through his passion and death. Our suffering is a part of the process. 

My death, even if it comes alone and accidental, will still be part of the living, suffering and dying that is the life of a Christian inside the glow of Christ’s love. This is more than a “romantic glow”, as we see in Luke’s Gospel when Christ takes the thief on the cross inside that love: “Today you will be with me in paradise”.

Of suffering and pain Jane Marczewski (Nightbirde) says that we have hope because that’s when God is nearest. When it comes to pain, God isn’t often in the business of taking it away. Instead, he adds to it. He is more of a giver than a taker. 
He doesn’t take away my darkness, he adds light. He doesn’t spare me of thirst, he brings water, Marczewski says. He doesn’t cure my loneliness, he comes near. So why do we believe that when we are in pain, it must mean that God is far?
We need the God who knows our pain, meets us in our pain, and redeems our pain. With this God, we too can have a hope that allows us to sing, along with Nightbirde, in a world of sickness and death. “It’s OK,” Nightbirde sang, while dying of cancer, before her final encounter with Jesus.
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