By the Publisher,
Love One Another! 3/2004 → Suffering and Love
Suffering and death – the wages of sin – would make no sense, were it not for the fact that God Himself became man and took upon Himself the sins and suffering of us all.
In His passion and death, Christ underwent the greatest suffering
of all. At the same time, by rising from the tomb, He made it possible
for the most senseless suffering, when united to Him, to become
the way to salvation. In the mystery of His incarnation, passion,
death and resurrection He united Himself with every man (Gaudium
et Spes, 22), that He might bring men through suffering and death
to the fullness of life. With great meekness His all-powerful love
knocks at the door of men’s hearts (The
Revelation 3:20). When we accept His love, it heals the most
painful wounds, blots out the greatest sins, and gives sense to
every suffering. Whenever man encounters suffering, Jesus is the
first to bear its weight.
While watching the shocking images of Christ’s torments in The Passion of the Christ, let us be mindful that He is present and suffering in every one of the millions of human beings who live in poverty and hunger, suffer brutal oppression and persecution, undergo torture, or fall victim to acts of terrorism. Only with the “eyes” of faith can we see this shocking reality of a God who suffers along with mankind. Holy men and women have such eyes of faith, and that is why they always see Jesus present in suffering, derelict and dying souls. Edith Stein, the famous philosopher, now patron saint of Europe, knew the darkness of atheism. After discovering in Christ the greatest love of her life, she had this to say about the meaning of suffering: Human nature, which Christ assumed, enabled Him to suffer and die. Divine nature, which he enjoyed from eternity, bestowed on this suffering and death an infinite value and redemptive power. The passion and death of Christ is repeated in His Mystical Body and members. Everyone must suffer and die, but if he is a living member of the Mystical Body, his suffering and death take on a redemptive power thanks to the divinity of the One Who is its Head. This explains why every saint is so willing to embrace suffering.
From the moment of conception, every person becomes a member of the human
family and inherits the reality of good and evil that resides within
it. Sin deforms and destroys the good in a person, his relations
with God and with others. God stands powerless in the face of our
sinful decisions. He respects our free will to the very end. Through
original sin evil became the common lot of the entire human family.
That is why it touches us all, causing suffering even when we are
not personally at fault. Suffering is not a punishment meted out
by God for sin, but the unavoidable experience of the results flowing
from an objectively existing “sin of the world” (John
In the Biblical story of Job, God teaches us that suffering is
a great mystery and not always the consequence of personal sin (cf.
9:2-3). If suffering springs from man’s personal sin, it cannot
be seen as a punishment by God for sin (cf. to
the Galatians 6:8). By taking upon Himself the burden of our
suffering, Jesus Christ radically changes its sense and meaning.
Christ conquered and transformed the evil of sin. United with Him,
suffering becomes our path to salvation. The parable of the prodigal
son tells us that God is moved by fatherly love. He does not punish
his son. He merely allows him to taste the consequences of his sins.
He does this so that his son can come to his senses and repent.
Thus, it is not God who punishes. The consequences of sin are punishment