Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hidden in Suffering is hope

Jesus casts  out demons
 Jesus in Mark’s Gospel confronts evil in a “crazed” man and exorcises him. Jesus is forever driving these “devils” or “demons” out of people.

The problem of evil can be best understood in light of the dying and rising of Jesus.

Yes, our faith proclaims that hidden in every Good Friday is an Easter hope or joy.

Someone in a family, for example, loses a job or is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or sees a relationship begin to unravel, or has to care for a seriously ill parent or child.  And then this family draws together, supports one another and gradually brings faith, hope and love to their life together as a family.

We sometimes find ourselves stuck in a Good Friday situation – our problems sometimes seem to overwhelm us.

Our faith challenges us to remember that good ultimately will conquer evil, that love transforms hate, that light shatters darkness.

The life of Jesus did not end in the tragedy of the cross, but in the triumph of the Resurrection.  Hidden within the mystery of suffering is the glory of resurrection, eternal life, a transfigured or transformed, indescribable new life for us.

As we reflect upon the human situation today, brutal violence by ISIS in the Middle East, the denial of basic human rights in some countries, systemic poverty in so many regions of the globe, we realize that the entire planet cries out for God’s grace, God’s healing power.

At times suffering does result from immoral behavior, from the misuse of freedom.
At other times, suffering results from natural disasters, from an unfinished, incomplete universe, a universe “on the way,” a universe in process toward an ultimate goal.
But ultimately, suffering is a mystery.  So, how can we respond to this mystery?

We have to remember that God is always near us.  God forever seeks to bring us to a fuller life.  God will never abandon us.  Chisel in your memories the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Can a mother forget her child and, even if she does, I will never forget you.”

Second, if we are suffering, we should avoid negative judgments about ourselves.  To say “I really deserve it” is a form of self-hate.

And finally, remember, the mystery of suffering has healing and redemptive power.

Yes, our everyday inescapable ”pain,” borne with love, can bring forth new life in ourselves and in others.  We can say this because the sufferings of Jesus brought forth eternal life, resurrection, for all.

The ultimate evil of course is death. How do we come to terms especially with our own dying?  Death seems cruel; it destroys and yet, in the Christian vision, we expect that the Spirit who continually amazes us, will surprise us in the moment of our own dying.

We cannot begin to imagine what life after this earthly life will be like, but we know that the Spirit will satisfy our deepest needs and longings.  “No eye has seen, or ear has heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.”

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