by Ken Rolheiser
Pain and suffering and God’s will

Morris, an 82 year-old man, went to the doctor to get a physical. A few days
later, the doctor saw Morris walking down the street with a gorgeous young woman on his arm. The doctor said, "You're really doing great, aren't you?"
Morris replied, "Just doing what you said, Doc: 'Get a hot mamma and be
cheerful.'" The doctor said, "I didn't say that. I said, 'You've got a heart murmur; be careful.’"

Most of us are more careful than Morris when it comes to warnings about our health and future suffering and pain we may encounter. Jesus tells us “You will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy” (John 16:20).

In John’s passage Jesus promises to return and then we will rejoice. But meanwhile we face some very difficult times and we often ask, “Why does God allow such terrible things to happen?”

Father Brendan McGuire shares some of his reflection at the funeral of a murder suicide that left small children orphaned. “Why would God allow such a horrible thing to happen to such a lovely family?” some ask.

God gives us free will. If God intervened in every situation where we make bad choices God would have to interfere non-stop all over the world, McGuire says. “…these calamities are happening constantly even now. Look at all the people who have been killed in all parts of the world today.

“He would have to intercede in every one of those. And people who are dying of hunger; it is not God's will... It is our wilful ignorance or wilful lack of cooperation with sharing.

“God does not intend people to have to migrate from one place to the next just for food and they are dying in refugee camps blocked from one country to the next. That is not God's will,” McGuire says.

When it comes to our pain and suffering we want God to intervene. We will lose the battle for good health and fitness, but death is not the end but the beginning. Our moment of death will be the greatest moment of our existence. It will be the time to rejoice in Christ’s victory over death.

The greatest meditation related to pain and suffering is to reflect on the Passion of Jesus. Our Lord said to St Bernard, “I will remit all the venial sins and I will no more think of the mortal sins of those who honour the grievous wound on my right shoulder, which caused me unutterable pain when bearing my heavy cross to Calvary.”

The key to finding meaning in suffering is being close to God. “Nothing is wanting to him who possesses God,” said St Teresa of Avila. “God alone suffices”. Being close to God means joy.

In Breaking into Joy Anne Costa says: “Joy does not depend upon our circumstances. It comes from God and cannot be reduced by suffering or hardship.” About suffering, Costa says, “How we choose to think about things is always within our control.”

McGuire suggests that we can follow Christ when we face pain and suffering. “And what did Jesus do? Jesus took in that pain and gave back love. That is what he did on the cross… That is the true victory of the cross.”

We can offer up our pain and suffering, in union with Christ, in reparation for our sins and the sins of the whole world.

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