Toward an Authentic Response to Suffering

Just like death. it refers to the general state of the individual as a whole: the whole person. In contrast. and spiritually. Suffering may or may not be associated with physical pain. In this paper. because a human being is the unity of body. however.4 Furthermore. 4 Ibid. the phenomenon of suffering cannot be adequately defined. Wisconsin: Sheed and Ward. According to one definition. Subjectively.. not infrequently. to sustain injury. the intensity of the pain as perceived by the individual (and thereby his capacity to bear it) is also influenced by other factors. mental/spiritual suffering can produce intense psychosomatic symptoms that can mimic organic disease. the experience of suffering varies from one person to another according to the person‟s constitution. the reality of suffering is inherently complex both in its subjective and „objective‟ dimensions. can be pinpointed to a particular part of the body.1 The term pain usually connotes a disagreeable physical sensation which. with a “supernatural [dimension] rooted in the mystery of the Redemption of the world”. mentally. 31. conversely. It is infinitely easier to suffer with others than to suffer alone. man has not ceased to search for answers to the perennial „why?‟ of suffering. Such a unity is seen manifested especially in long standing illnesses: chronic physical pain and its ramifications eventually affect the person psychologically. disadvantage of loss. or to undergo a penalty”. “to suffer is to feel pain or distress. http://www. . no. This is why suffering is “almost inexpressible and not transferable”. 1. because it is infinitely easier to suffer in obedience to a human command than in the freedom of one's own responsible action. 5. body and soul. the term suffering is more encompassing. Introduction – the complexity and diversity of suffering No living human being can go through life escaping the bite of pain and suffering. 2000).html. Salvifici Doloris. Why do we Suffer? A Scriptural Approach to the Human Condition ( 2 Daniel Harrington.3 Viewed purely at the human level. 1. even if we do not take into consideration the notion that suffering is a mystery. experiences distress. It is a phenomenon which upsets the „normal flow‟ of human life. Salvifici Doloris. so much so that ever since the beginning of human history. especially his susceptibility and internal resources. the reality of pain and suffering is a certainty and a universal phenomenon spanning across cultures and generations. Despite all the recent medical and technological advancements. mind. no.2 But in fact. and spirit.vatican. 3 John Paul II. It is infinitely easier to suffer publicly and honorably than to suffer being marginalized and in 1 John Paul II. going beyond the physical order. no. pain remains a “theme that accompanies man at every point on earth”. the two terms are used interchangeably.

Jer 15:17-18. but you do not answer. suffering also overwhelms us with the endless diversity of its manifestations both at the collective and personal levels. it seems that such reflections. from my cries of anguish? My God. while they “may be helpful for persons tempted to 5 Dietrich Bonhoeffer. to the many grades of personal mental anguish and torment. innumerable bodily ailments. and what do you find? A door slammed in your face. Widerstand und Ergebung. in Gemeinschaft zu leiden als in Eisamkeit. For this very reason. but I have no relief. why have you abandoned me? Why so far from my call for help. it is also deeply theological. Es ist unendlich viel leichter. Es ist unendlich viel leichter. In the latter group. in Gehorsam gegen eine menschlichen Befehl zu leiden als in der Freiheit eigenster veranwortlicher Tat. 2009).6 To a person who depends on God as a little child depends on her father.” 6 C. On the other hand. the „why?‟ of suffering is inherently linked to the fundamental question of God and evil. whose waters do not abide!. permits evil and suffering. . by night. durch den Einsatz des leiblichen lebens zu leiden als durch den Geist. all-powerful and good. 6. in fact. since pain is an existential problem which demands a practical solution. “Es ist unendlich viel leichter. 2.disgrace. suffering is no longer just an existential problem. Briefe und Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft (München: Siebenstern Taschenbuch Verlag. with the concrete daily manifestations of evil in the world. Lewis. A Grief Observed (New York: HarperCollins e-books. it can be said that the worst suffering comes from those whom we love and trust. ranging from natural calamities. philosophers and theologians over the centuries have advanced theories and speculations to explain such an (apparent) paradox. war and famine.S. Es ist unendlich viel leichter. and … silence”.7 In this crisis of the relationship between man and God. To top it all is the suffering which seems to come from God Himself: “Go to Him when your need is desperate. my God. It is infinitely easier to suffer through risking one‟s bodily life than to suffer spiritually. when all other help is in vain. 1951). 7 cf. Under the weight of your hand I sat alone because you filled me with indignation … You have indeed become for me a treacherous brook. To this end. Ps 22:1-2: My God. namely to demonstrate that God. especially when it regards the suffering of innocent children. there is no greater pain than the (apparent) inexplicable silent treatment and absolute darkness He leaves me in when I most need Him. öffenlich und unter Ehren zu leiden als abseits und in Schanden. in particular the question of how to reconcile our faith in the One God. 5 Viewed in its objective dimension. I call by day. 22. Response to suffering – reflection or action? It can be appreciated from the above brief overview that pain is the effect of an evil which deprives man of his sense of well being.

edu/dotAsset/0d638023-afe4-4570-b55e-3437d919b48f. “a warm hug and a few minutes of patient listening mend more hearts than the most learned theological lecture”.8 Job is a case in point. Erdmans Publishing Co. Narrating Pain: C. What he needs most is not theoretical explanations. 2009). 1983).11 It is not surprising.. in the midst of grief and despair following the death of his wife. is that the emphasis of action over reflection may be carried to the extreme. whereby the reality of suffering is seen as something not to be explained or accepted. instead of reflection. in Divine Impassibility and the Mystery of Human Suffering. every one of you”. in an attempt to give a reason to his suffering. 2006. .J.12 The danger. it can be confronted only with action. accessed 13/12/2013. 9 Job 13:4. the 8 Avery Cardinal Dulles. that reflection and action are not in opposition but complement one another in the response-process to suffering. one that should be both humane and rooted in the Christian belief. S. 10 Harold S. vol. Therefore.J. 4 (2004). MI: William B. grind me down with words?. that some contemporary authors insist that action. Keating and T. “You are glossing over falsehoods and offering vain remedies. 19:2 “How long will you vex my soul.e. May 30. 1976). ed. i. all the different arguments put forth by his friends. J.F. “Divine Providence and the Mystery of Human Suffering”. but as something to be eliminated at all cost with the available modern medical and technological means. are nothing but “vain remedies” which only add torment to his soul. the more we have reflected upon our past ordeals in the light of faith. Durchkreuztes Leben: Besinnung auf Hiob (Freiburg im Bresgau: Herder. however. it is quite another to be consumed by the experience itself. 14.. integrate it into our lives. http://library. xi. Personal experience indicates. how pain and suffering are coherent with God‟s goodness and power. and the more we have nourished ourselves with theological reflections on suffering written by respected Christian witnesses of the past and present. it is one thing to analyze suffering philosophically or theologically from outside the space of suffering.pdf. is the way to deal with suffering. Providence College. but consolation and reassurances.. … will be of little value to persons in actual situations of suffering”. When bad things happen to good people (New York: Avon Books. crush our aspirations or force us to change direction. Keynote Address. all the while remaining firmly anchored in the faith. 21:34.S. “How then can you offer me vain comfort…”. how to overcome the suffering. White (Grand Rapids. 11 Samuel Joeckel.. CS Lewis.9 A person in pain is in a way like a hurt child. therefore. Kushner. could not even apply the wisdom of his earlier book (The Problem of Pain) in which he defends. 334-335. rationally and persuasively.10 In other words. the most critical existential question then becomes „how to suffer well‟. 12 Erich Zenger.taylor. Lewis and the Problem of Evil . As a concrete reality. For us as Christian believers. Inklings Forever.doubt or disbelieve. Trials and tribulations not infrequently impinge on our freedom. To reflect upon it brings no change to the miserable situation itself. The problem of pain is not something theoretical that calls for intellectual investigation or understanding. however.

or (iv) as a „school‟ for growing in patience and building character. Possible responses to suffering According to Dulles. 334. almost always the initial reaction is one of “human protest”. (iii) suffering seen as punishment for sin. even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. seven times cursed and seven times sealed… Never shall I forget those flames which consumed my faith forever… Never shall I forget those moments which murdered my God and my soul and turned my dreams to dust. “there are at least seven possible responses to suffering”. He was a youth reared only on the Talmud until the day when he witnessed the horrors of inhumanity in a Nazi concentration camp. 15 On the one hand. and Jesus Himself reminds us of the goodness of our heavenly Father with the rhetorical question “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asks for a loaf of bread” (Mt 7:9). Night. It is true that the 13 14 Dulles. (vi) suffering with the hope of eternal rewards. Stella Roadway (New York: Hill & Wang. it is not unlikely that. is a real danger that even believers can fall into. 15 Elie Wiesel.more solid a framework we will have with which we can respond to the painful situation at hand in a more active and effective manner. 32. Salvifici Doloris. no. John Paul II. something deep in us shrinks at the idea of the rejection of Transcendence. Recalling his experiences.14 This is why the above-mentioned first response. trans. which has turned my life into one long night. Nevertheless. 26. the first night in camp. . even with a well-informed faith and theological acumen.13 Even though “people react to suffering in different ways”. in our darkest moments when we are consumed with self-centered pathos. including: (i) “rebellion against God”. On the other hand. 1960). The story of Elie Wiesel is a case in point. The Psalms tell us that the Lord hears the cry of the poor. but about His goodness. (v) Job-like submission “with an adoring silence before the majesty of God”. we can sympathize with this angry protest. He endows each with freedom. The traumatic experience can be so overwhelming as to trigger a loss of faith that plunges one straight into atheism. the bitter rejection of an (apparently) uncaring and silent God who chooses to ignore the cry of the poor. 3. and continues to hold fast to the belief of the existence of God – the One and only God Whom we believe to be both loving and powerful. (ii) stoic resignation with grim indifference. and (vii) suffering in union with Christ. we may succumb to a temporary doubt – not about His existence. Never shall I forget these things. Wiesel wrote: Never shall I forget that night. Never. God is the Father of a large family of human children.

Salvifici Doloris. that we are given the answer on the meaning of our own suffering. Thomas Aquinas. „winds‟ it up and lets it run on its own without any interference from His part. A Grief Observed. 29-30. the answer is not revealed all at once like a „eureka‟ or a speculative theological discourse that explains why God permits suffering. “it often takes time. I q6 a1. the answer coming from the Cross is more like an „invitation to the dance‟ with a Person (Christ Himself). .S. and let “the noise of our wailing and railing” fade into silence. it is only when we reflect on our suffering in relation to Christ‟s sufferings. will God allow the wicked to exercise their human freedom at the expense of the freedom of the oppressed innocents? There seems to be a lack of coherence between the teaching of Scriptures (e. no. Alla radice non sta una decisione errata o cattiva di Dio. Summa Theologiae.80. Mt 7:9) and the reality we are immersed in! Faced with such an (apparent) inactivity from God‟s part. “The problem of observed pain: a Study of C. Rather. i.17 Intellectually we know all these truths. and renders many of the physical evils worse. di crearci liberi per averci amici. “God is called good „as by Whom all things subsist‟”.root cause of suffering in the world originates from “the disordered exercise of human freedom”16 which accounts for every single moral evil and suffering.e. e in certo modo il suo rischio. 26. like C. through Christ. 17 St. Nevertheless. cf. Lewis on suffering .va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_15101998_fides-etratio_en. “speak words of comfort to us”. See also Lewis.19 In other words.20 Moreover. a 16 John Paul II. Fides et Ratio.S. The journey undertaken by the suffering soul to reach this „turning point‟ can be a rocky one. The fact that God brings things into existence and continues to maintain them in existence is clear evidence of His goodness. in relation to the Pascal mystery.g.” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 26. 20 John Paul II. beckoning us to go beyond the superficial level of angry sarcasm against God. we may be tempted to concede that the Deists are right in their vision of God as a clockmaker: He creates the world. “that God had successfully played a „vile practical joke‟ on His own Son”!18 Here we come into contact with the Cross. 1983. “The problem of moral evil … stems not from any material deficiency. then we may begin to hear God.. even a long time. but is a wound inflicted by the disordered exercise of human freedom. Narrating Pain. ma la sua scelta. this could well be a window of opportunity being presented to us. Or worse. Lewis in his despair. 19 Robert Walter Wall.vatican. 18 Joeckel.html. Dalla libertà è nato anche il male”. for this answer to begin to be interiorly perceived”. http://www. albeit in a very strange way. 450-451. If we then allow the eyes of our mind to shift from the all-absorbing personal suffering to the figure of Christ hung on the Cross. yet a nagging question arises: Which earthly father would just let his bigger children go on bullying their weaker and defenseless siblings? To what extent then. our doubt of God‟s love and justice can lead us to think. no. General Audience 20/08/1986: “Abbiamo ricevuto luce su uno dei massimi problemi che inquietano l‟uomo e pervadono la sua ricerca di verità: il problema della sofferenza e del male..

In this sense. [because] the hurt child needs not so much explanations as reassurances. And that is what we get. suffering indeed has an educative function as “a school of patience… [to] elicit heroic virtue”. By imitating the One we love. It is self-evident that contemplating Christ on the Cross also negates the rigid moralistic response which “explains suffering as punishment for sin”.peterkreeft. One thing is clear: the reasoning that suffering is exclusively a result of sin becomes incomprehensible when the innocents also suffer – and the most perfect innocent is none other than Christ Himself who “suffers [both] voluntarily and … innocently”28 to accomplish Redemption.. no.. God’s answer to suffering. proven character.„dance‟ whereby the soul can discover the true meaning of her suffering as she “gradually becomes a sharer in the sufferings of Christ”. no.. 334. Salvifici Doloris. Paul. 26. thus becoming more „fit‟ for the rewards of eternal life. knowing that affliction produces endurance.htm. Trials and tribulations thus serve “to strengthen goodness both in [ourselves] and in [our] relationships with others and especially with God”. hope” (Rom 5:3-4) such that we would not succumb to despair.. not just something . “it is not true that all suffering is a consequence of a fault and has the nature of a punishment”. since it is in the free acceptance of embracing Christ crucified that we may grow in virtue and learn how to suffer meaningfully in loving obedience to God‟s will. no. 25 Ibid. 334. Peter Kreeft. accessed 12/12/2013. Jesus Himself already dismissed the Old Testament wholesale retribution theory.24 They give us the opportunity to grow in “interior maturity and spiritual greatness”25 in the imitation of Christ during our earthly pilgrimage. Salvifici Doloris. no 12. 28 Ibid. we [may] “even boast of our afflictions. the reassurance of the Father in the person of Jesus. 24 John Paul II. “The sacrifice of Christ on the Cross is the 21 22 Ibid. While there is a connection between suffering and sin.26 The teaching of John Paul II cautions us against this attitude. and proven character.21 In other words. we can fulfill our humanity and become more ourselves as intended by God. http://www. 11. 27 John Paul II. 23 18.22 Another reason why the Person is the answer is because we humans learn by imitation. „he who has seen me has seen the Father‟ (Jn 14:9)”. and endurance. .27 In the account of the man born blind (Jn 9:1:3). 26 Dulles.23 Like St. the answer to our suffering “must be someone.

32 Christ explicitly told us the cost of discipleship: “If anyone wishes to come after me. 487. relatives and friends” (Lk 21:16). and inseparably so. G. To freely accept to suffer in loving union with Christ is an exercise of human freedom par excellence for Christian believers. 30 Viktor E. we share “in His sufferings by being conformed to His death” so that through Him we “may attain the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:10-11). brothers. because Christ has transformed the Cross from an instrument of evil torture into an instrument of salvation. Frankl. actively and authentically. He also laid out before us the harsh reality of trials and tribulations as part and parcel of the true Christian vocation. we can see that the process of salvation does not consist in an initial dying with Christ followed … by an experience of Christ‟s resurrection power … [Rather. he must deny himself and take up his cross daily” (Lk 9: 23. Several of the promised Beatitudes are connected to suffering (e.30 we will also live our Christian discipleship.. In this way. Paul reminds us that “the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom 8:18). it will also come from our close circle of “parents.29 4. 2005.g. Here. Indignant as we might be when we are hit with betrayal and rejection from loved 29 Rik Van Nieuwenhove. 601. 132. Suffering thus becomes linked to redemption/resurrection like two sides of the same coin. Man’s Search for Meaning (New York: Simon & Schuster. but in our suffering we can actually experience in this life the power of Christ‟s resurrection in the way that Paul described it: It is in “my weaknesses … that the power of Christ may dwell with me” (2 Cor 12:9). cf.divine instrument by which [man] is allowed to restore [his] broken relationship with God through Jesus Christ”. Our suffering will not only be in the form of persecution by outsiders opposed to the Christian faith. 1998). St. Mt 5:10-11). 31 J. as also a sharing in Christ's sufferings.” Angelicum 82. The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Edinburgh: T&T Clark. D. Salvifici Doloris. 19.] the resurrection power of Christ manifests itself. when we are given the gift of redemption. Free response to suffering – suffering in Christ and with Christ. when facing a fate that cannot be changed”. not only will we “find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation. that we also receive the call to be conformed to Christ.31 It is at baptism. namely to “share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished”. . 32 John Paul II. Not only does the prospect of future glory strengthen us in hope. The process of salvation is a process of growing conformity to Christ's death. and walk the “constricted road that leads to life” (Mt 7:14). “The Christian response to suffering and the significance of the model of the Church as Body of Christ. 1984). Dunn. Mt 16:24). no.

in prison…” (Mt 25: 35-36) as He identifies Himself as one with us. the unity between the Head and the Body means that there is a kind of communicatio of suffering between Christ and His followers. so would we be as His followers. can your head be free from pain? … N ow that He has ascended into heaven. betrayed and abandoned by His friends.1.3. . For Augustine then. and “through partaking in the body and blood of Christ. absets und in Schanden. alone. asking him „why are you persecuting Me‟ (Acts 9:4) instead of „why are you persecuting my saints‟? Commenting on this passage. 604. naked …. constraints. III. Augustine wrote: “the Head cries out on behalf of its members. Augustine. “An Ecclesiology of groaning: Augustine. marginalized and in ignominy.ones.” Theological Studies 66. the members of the Church. He still undergoes in the person of his Church whatever it may suffer amid the troubles of this world. or 33 Bonhoeffer.36 The same solidarity is expressed when Christ said “I was hungry… I was thirsty …. imprisonments. speaking of our pain as His own. . McCarthy. riots. labors. q69 a3. 22. This unity between Christ and the Church is revealed in the account in Acts 9 when the glorified Christ appeared to Saul (Paul). ill . as Thomas Aquinas pointed out.35 The Head and the Body form an inseparable unity. He wrote: for whatever he suffered. Christ Himself was rejected by many. “He is the head of the Body. Think of an analogy: if your head suffers some injury. vigils [and] fasts” (2 Cor 6:3-4). 35 St. we ourselves become the one body of Christ”. and whatever we suffer. He too suffers in us. or hardship. 36 St. many have endured “afflictions. Summa Theologiae. analogous to the kind of unity that we observe in a human birth process in which the head is born first and the body follows. we too suffered in Him. the Body of Christ. At baptism we are incorporated into this Body. an Leib und Geist. 33. Thomas Aquinas. Already in His infancy He was persecuted (Mt 2: 13-14). und seither viele Christen mit Ihm. Enarratio in psalmum. whether temptations. and the Head transfigures its members in Himself”. and is seated at the Father's right hand. “that what takes place in the head should take place also in the member incorporated”. 2005.34 It is fitting therefore. all for the sake of Christ and for the sake of the Church. can your hand be unaffected? Or if your hand is hurt. Paul. the Psalms. The participation of our suffering in the sufferings of Christ has its foundation in the doctrine of the Mystical Body of Christ. This idea is expressed in Augustine‟s comment on Col 1:24. and the making of the Church.J. St. S.” 34 Nieuwenhove.. 30(2) s. quoted and trans. “Christus litt in Freiheit.33 Like St. by Michael C. in Eisamkeit. beatings. we should remember that “a servant is not greater than His master” (Jn 15: 20).. later on He “suffered as a free man. hardships. the Church” (Col 1:18). and since then many Christians have suffered with Him”. in body and spirit.

2001).41 Thus. .oppression (for all these are the necessary means of our instruction. 38 John Paul II. 40 Jean Galot. the Redemption [already fully accomplished by Christ] is extended into the life of every person. only with his death would he complete that which was lacking to fulfill the afflictions of Christ in his own personal existence. … always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus … For we who live are constantly being given up to death for the sake of Jesus. by Maria Boulding OSB. “has in a sense opened His own redemptive suffering to all human suffering”. through these sufferings. 24. no. we discover that our suffering takes on a special salvific meaning. nella sua carne. 1981. which is the Church” (Col 1:24).. Augustine. to be invited to share in His gift of salvific love so that. Quoted by Nieuwenhove. This principle shows how Christ‟s redemptive work is the foundation upon which all human sufferings find their meaning. queste sofferenze prolungano la redenzione in ogni vita individuale”. 41 John Paul II. like Christ. perché deve sopportare ancora delle sofferenze. 132. Salvifici Doloris. then is not meaningless. what is expressed in Col 1:24 is the principle that every Christian must live in his flesh the passion of the Savior. we too become like Him. the bread to be broken for others? Our suffering. 39 Ibid. Salvifici Doloris. 230-231. Rather it is “a mission of most lofty value for 37 St. Is this not a great honor to such miserable sinful creatures that we are. Paolo non ha ancora terminato di viverla. as Exposition of the Psalms. “Sofferenza dell‟uomo e parola di Dio. The Christian response to suffering. no.40 Christ has also “raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption”. 605. no. 37 What makes it possible for us to suffer in union with Christ is that Christ Himself.39 This is why Paul could say “in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of His Body. 19. S.” La Civiltà Cattolica. solo con la sua morte avrà completato ciò che mancava al compimento dei patimenti di Cristo nella sua esistenza personale. Paul was not implying that that the sufferings of Christ were insufficient for achieving Redemption.. as members of His Body. In light of this passage. “Il principio (sottinteso) e che ogni cristiano deve vivere. 445. Vol. so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor 4:8-11). Paul has not yet finished living it since he still had to endure sufferings. 62 (2). Enarratio in psalmum. as we embrace our afflictions in a spirit of loving obedience and unite ourselves to His Cross. la passione del Salvatore. Questo principio mostra come tutto il senso delle sofferenze umane è fondato sull‟opera redentrice di Cristo. who endured every single possible category of human suffering. as gold is by fire).J. 42 Ibid. for he also said “we are afflicted in every way.38 In that way. to be “serving. 27. the salvation of [our] brothers and sisters”?42 Is this not a gift of love. 3 (New York: New York City Press. trans. and through them the Church is purified. Redemption – Christ‟s supreme gift of salvific love – “remains always open to all love expressed in human suffering”. we are being made active sharers of Christ‟s work of redemption of the world.

should shake us out of our false understanding on suffering. Our modern mentality to avoid suffering at all cost is very much contrary to the message of the Gospel. the soul becomes liberated from this very evil. “God forbid. The soul also realizes that in her afflictions she carries “a very special particle of the Redemption of the world”. manifested most explicitly in His Son crucified Who gives meaning to our suffering. hence. As a result. Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to you” (Mt 16:22) when Jesus announced His upcoming Passion. Thus.vatican. “Get behind no. It is an even greater blessing when the conditions of her tribulations also bear certain similarities to those endured by Christ or by His Mother. 3. Salvifici Doloris.4. but as human beings do” (Mt 16:23). To refute suffering at all cost amounts to collaborating with the devil himself to obstruct God‟s eternal plan of salvation for humanity. all‟offerta della propria sofferenza come l‟unica medicina in grado di guarire alla radice il vero male che minaccia l‟essere umano ed il suo ambiente di vita”. Ai Volontari della Sofferenza e ai Silenziosi Operai della Croce (17/06/1995).both the Church and society”. Message for the Fifth World Day of the Sick 1997. no. she finds herself overflowed not only with peace. the soul can recognize that suffering is a gift (in disguise) of divine love both for her own good (bringing her to closer intimacy with Christ) and the good of many others. 27. The real evil [of suffering] is not suffering itself but rather wasted suffering. Jesus‟ harsh words of rebuke to Peter. Even though the flesh still recoils and groans loudly at the prospect of pain. 46 Dulles. 45 Kreeft. the solution to evil and suffering in the world is our suffering. “the offering of our afflictions is the only medicine capable to heal at its root the evil that threatens man and his living environment”.47 and how this treasure is to be shared with others.44 In other words.45 suffered in Christ and with Christ. and gratitude. Satan! … You are thinking not as God does. “Dalla contemplazione del Signore crocifisso deriva l‟invito alla riparazione. in that sense it can be said to be of demonic influence. the answer to suffering is God‟s love. however.html.43 In the words of John Paul II.vatican. itself the visible manifestation of the love of the Father and the Son within the Trinity.46 By attaining the insight about the salvific meaning of suffering. . 47 John Paul II. In our flesh we may continue to suffer greatly 43 John Paul II. the Beloved One. joy. 44 John Paul II. no. so as to share ever more deeply in His redeeming but also with an ardent desire to be made more conformed to Christ.html. http://www. it is analogous to Peter‟s reaction. http://www. 334.

no. has become more institutionalized. holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1) bears a two-fold benefit: (i) it brings the suffering person toward a fuller realization of his humanity as he receives grace and strength to become more Christ-like. . holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1) requires an attitude which incorporates several interrelated virtues. and perseverance.if not worse.49 5.. love.52 It belongs to the heart of Christian faith that we have a disposition of selfabandonment. obedience. as indispensable as institutions are. physically we may become weaker. He always gives us the grace and strength to unite ourselves with greater love to the sacrifice of His Son and to share ever more fully in His plan of salvation. for which no institution can substitute when it comes to dealing with the suffering of another. 596. This second dimension. Let us be convinced of this: He is our Father..html. 48 John Paul II. we can be detached from our self-centeredness and surrender “ourselves [to God] in the way that Christ surrendered Himself”. Conclusion – the necessary disposition to suffer in union with Christ To suffer in union with Christ so as to offer up our afflictions “as a living sacrifice. Only the first three are treated (briefly) here because of their relative importance. especially those called to assist the suffering individual. when offered up in loving union with Christ “as a living sacrifice. In humility we acknowledge that we are finite creatures whose “very existence [like the rest of creation] is utterly dependent upon God”.. Letter to the Elderly. among others. Salvifici Doloris. hospices and hospitals). detachment.g. 51 Ibid. hope. the most important element still remains “the human heart”. but whoever loses it will save it” (Lk 17:33). 52 Ibid. 599. 13. armed with the reassurance that when God permits us to suffer ….51 In that way. However. and (ii) it fosters conversion. from voluntary organizations to professional institutions (e. The foundational requirement is humility. no. which reminds us of Jesus‟ earthly ministry of healing the sick. the Good Samaritan work. http://www. 29. such as humility. 49 John Paul II. involving various levels of the society. generosity and charity in others.vatican. but spiritually we grow stronger. 50 Nieuwenhove. and most importantly. for it is written “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it.50 that all the good things we have are received from Him as a gift. a Father rich in love and mercy!48 Suffering. that we are not the ones in control but that God is.

A disposition of humility and detachment can protect a suffering patient from being so self-absorbed in his pain or infirmity to the point of becoming mercilessly demanding of those around him. [and] endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). the love that “bears all things … hopes all things. however. accept the new constraints imposed on his life. let go of himself (especially of his desire to control). and being conscious of the authentic meaning of his suffering. God‟s love which lives in our hearts. The physical reality of pain does not necessarily disappear.53 This is not an uncommon phenomenon. 53 Gisbert Greshake. Pourquoi l’amour de Dieu nous laisse-t-il souffrir? (Paris: Les Editions du Cerf. Sustained by love and affirmation. can become an efficient „conduit‟ of God‟s love flowing through him to others. 2010). It has been conquered by love. often by means of subtle manipulation.Our attitude toward God affects how we relate to ourselves and others. 88. in turn. Such a patient needs great help to overcome his self-centeredness. and to welcome with gratitude the love of God manifested to him through those who give him care and assistance. the patient himself. .

________. Greshake. Jean http://www. Lewis and the Problem of Evil. ________. 1951. Daniel. ________. Letter to the Elderly. Wisconsin: Sheed and Ward.html. 2000. Frankl. 1998. Briefe und Aufzeichnungen aus der Haft. 2010. Edinburgh: T&T Clark. “Sofferenza dell‟uomo e parola di Dio.J.taylor. Keating and T.html. White.vatican. Why do we Suffer? A Scriptural Approach to the Human Condition . Viktor E. 4 (2004).va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/letters/documents/hf_jpii_let_01101999_elderly_en.vatican. Galot.F. Widerstand und Ergebung. 2009.vatican. John Paul II. Thomas. http://www. Bonhoeffer. 2006. http://www. Gisbert.pdf. “Divine Providence and the Mystery of Human Suffering”. St. Franklin. (1981): 429-45. Fides et Ratio. München: Siebenstern Taschenbuch Verlag.J.vatican. Providence College.J. http://www. 1984. 324-335. Grand Rapids. Keynote Address. Summa Theologiae. In Divine Impassibility and the Mystery of Human Suffering. Inklings Forever.Bibliography Aquinas. http://library.html. Pourquoi l’amour de Dieu nous laisse-t-il souffrir? Paris: Les Editions du Cerf. Man’s Search for Meaning. accessed 13/12/2013. ________. Avery Cardinal S. edited by J. New York: Simon & Schuster. May 30. Message for the Fifth World Day of the Sick.” La Civiltà Cattolica 132. Joeckel. Salvifici Doloris. Narrating Pain: C. vol.vatican.S. .html. The Theology of Paul the Apostle. G. http://www. MI: William B. Erdmans Publishing Co.. Dunn. J. Harrington. Ai Volontari della Sofferenza e ai Silenziosi Operai della Croce (17/06/1995).va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/messages/sick/documents/hf_jpii_mes_16101996_world-day-of-the-sick-1997_en. D.html.

com/topics/suffering. God’s answer to suffering. Wall. Zenger.” Theological Studies 66. Lewis on suffering.peterkreeft. Erich.” Angelicum 82. accessed 12/12/2013. Kushner. (2005): 595-609.S. 2009. Harold S. Peter.Kreeft. New York: Hill & Wang. (1983): 443-51. When bad things happen to good people. 1976.. (2005): 23-48. New York: HarperCollins e-books. Wiesel. and the making of the Church. Rik Van. 1983. Lewis. “The Christian response to suffering and the significance of the model of the Church as Body of Christ. http://www. the Psalms. Durchkreuztes Leben: Besinnung auf Hiob. 1960. McCarthy. “An Ecclesiology of groaning: Augustine. S. A Grief Observed. .J. Freiburg im Bresgau: Herder. C.htm.” Journal of Evangelical Theological Society 26. Robert Walter.S. Night. Translated by Stella Roadway. New York: Avon Books. Elie. Nieuwenhove. Michael C. “The problem of observed pain: a Study of C.

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