Two weeks ago, this article discussed St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letter on the mystery of human suffering, particularly with reference to God’s response in the humanity of His Divine Son, Jesus Christ. This article will describe some ways of bringing Christ to people who are struggling.
One lesson of the Book of Job is that, in most cases, we do not know why God allows a particular person to suffer infirmities or other sufferings; and even if we do, that knowledge does not really help much. The central mistake Job’s friends make is trying to explain away this mystery, when in fact there is a greater contest occurring that they know. Rather, what Job needs is their company, their consolation, and their help in invoking the presence of God.
And to people who are ill or otherwise suffering, we can bring a visible image of Christ’s love for them in our own company and service. For people understand the invisible realm through the visible one. And, when the faithful demonstrate in visible ways the love that Christ has for those who suffer, they become more aware of that consoling reality. For as the prophet Isaiah said, “He has carried our griefs and borne our sorrows.” Is. 53:4. In addition, as the letter to the Hebrews says, we are “surrounded by a cloud of witnesses” urging us onto victory. Anyone who is suffering infirmities or other great struggles in this life should know that the visible assistance of the Church on earth is an image of this glorious company at their side, encouraging them and helping them to achieve a great victory of faith over the travails of the world.
And joined to Jesus Christ, those who are suffering should know that their struggles give them greater power in prayer, in unity with the wisdom and love of Christ, and in providing glorious witness to the joy of the Gospel. For, precisely because those who suffer are brought closer to Christ upon Calvary, their prayers can be more powerful. Great suffering can also bring about a wisdom and compassion for others that no earthly learning provides. And, when those who are struggling greatly nevertheless have divine joy and charity, even the cynic often asks for the cause of their hope. In these and other ways, the humble, prayerful, and faithful suffering of holy people brings the power and love of God to this proud, noisy and confused world.