'Why does God allow suffering?'
First Friday Mass and Adoration, August 4, SAA Church:
Holy Mass at 7 pm, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to follow. Please join us!
Six years ago, I had the great privilege of spending a few weeks in Calcutta, India, with the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sisters). I was there with a few other seminarians working and praying each day with the sisters. One night, the nun who succeeded Mother Teresa as head of the order said something to me that I will never forget. She said, “Greg, those who are closest to Jesus on earth are those who suffer the most.”
Obviously, we saw widespread suffering on the streets of Calcutta. Thousands of people everywhere, even little kids, suffering tremendously from hunger and disease. There was so much filth and heat; such oppressive conditions which I had never fathomed, much less seen. That experience has helped me to better understand suffering. For example, reading the words of the prophet Jeremiah (from today's first reading at Mass) when he saw the vast pains of the people of Judah due to war, famine, and drought: “ my eyes stream with tears… over the great destruction which overwhelms…my people…look! those slain by the sword…look! those consumed by hunger”(Jer 14: 17-18). He’s essentially saying to God, 'Lord, do you see this?' His cries are similar to the question we like to ask, ‘why does God allow suffering?’
Jeremiah arrives at an answer a few lines down in this passage. “We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you”(v.20). Suffering is a natural result of sin. The Israelites had sinned against God. They had broken the covenant. They worshipped false gods, didn’t keep the commandments, and didn’t love their neighbor as they should.
God’s feelings about those who suffer are most likely the same as Jeremiah’s. God’s “eyes stream with tears” seeing His children in pain. Ultimately, His answer to the question of suffering is that He sends His Son to suffer for our sake. He has not only remembered His covenant with us, He has created a new covenant. This new covenant is centered on the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ. If anyone wishes to live the new covenant with the Lord, he or she must center their lives on the cross of Jesus Christ, on which He suffered tremendously. Jesus himself says, “if anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Lk 9:23).
The reward for those who suffer is not found in this life. Jesus says,“my kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn 18:36). All those in Calcutta, those here in America, the sick and the dying, those in our family, our friends, ourselves, anyone who endures suffering in any form for the sake of love is a great friend of Jesus Christ. Jesus promises eternal rewards for His close friends. For all those who have imitated Him so well and united their suffering to His, Christ proclaims in today's Gospel: “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Mt 13:43).