Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Mystery of Human Suffering

On my way to Home Depot, kids at home with my husband, I blasted the Rocky IV soundtrack from my minivan. Totally uncool, I know. Every time I listen to that I relive memories of me and my dad from when I was little and we would watch the Rocky movies together. He would get all pumped up and start lifting weights. Even after his diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, he would continue his weight lifting.

When I came home from a semester abroad, my parents surprised me with the diagnosis. At 18 years of age, I had been studying some atheistic philosophers and stunned my parents in return with the report that I had become an atheist. This was the clincher of my intellectual decision. How could God allow this to happen to my father?

As his disease progressed, he became unable to maintain his physical strength. Once the co-owner of a home building business, later a sales engineer in Manhattan, and always a work-a-holic, it saddened me to see him unable to work as he used to. I still love to build things and stain the house and decks because it reminds me of the work we used to do together.

But Dad never lost his faith. He continued to read his Bible every night. During times when he was unable to read, he would listen to the Bible on CD. He never stopped praying the prayer to “remove this mountain”. And eventually I would come to renew my faith, which reformed with even more resolve once I had performed this debate within myself for several years.

As I prepare for a visit to go see him with the kids, I wonder how it will hit me when I see him again. Every time I see him, years between visits, he looks worse and the change is hard to swallow. Last year at my sister’s wedding, my son took one look at him and cried.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church
touches on the Mystery of Human Suffering. It is one of those facets of our faith that defies logic, and the Church has no real explanation except that all will be revealed in the end of times.

In EXCERPTS OF THE LECTURE GIVEN BY CARD. JAVIER LOZANO BARRAGÁN "Pain, an enigma or a mystery?: THE THINKING AND THEOLOGY OF JOHN PAUL II: A Christian understanding of pain and suffering", the profound observations of John Paul II are explained quite succinctly. For anyone wrestling with this mystery right now, I highly recommend reading this short and quite readable document here.

In His Holiness’ own words:

"4. The image of human suffering is reflected in the Shroud. It reminds modern man, often distracted by prosperity and technological achievements, of the tragic situation of his many brothers and sisters, and invites him to question himself about the mystery of suffering in order to explore its causes. The imprint left by the tortured body of the Crucified One, which attests to the tremendous human capacity for causing pain and death to one's fellow man, stands as an icon of the suffering of the innocent in every age: of the countless tragedies that have marked past history and the dramas that continue to unfold in the world. Before the Shroud, how can we not think of the millions of people who die of hunger, of the horrors committed in the many wars that soak nations in blood, of the brutal exploitation of women and children, of the millions of human beings who live in hardship and humiliation on the edges of great cities, especially in developing countries? How can we not recall with dismay and pity those who do not enjoy basic civil rights, the victims of torture and terrorism, the slaves of criminal organizations? By calling to mind these tragic situations, the Shroud not only spurs us to abandon our selfishness but leads us to discover the mystery of suffering, which, sanctified by Christ's sacrifice, achieves salvation for all humanity. Death is not the ultimate goal of human existence."

(For entire document click here.)

Good is always greater than evil and I can only comfort myself in that, for all the bad we experience on this earth, we cannot begin to imagine the majesty of the goodness that we will feel in Heaven.

Christ Carrying the Cross Attributed to Marco d' Oggiono
Italian, about 1495 - 1500


Loren Christie said...

I'll be thinking of you when you visit your dad...

~ Judy ~ said...

I am so overjoyed that you found your way back to God and the Church!!! And I am happy for every visit you have with your someone who has watched her own father go from being bigger than suffering, in pain, growing frail, small, weak, battered, and on the brink of death several times...I understand how difficult it is to watch your Dad suffer...but we must remember... our Dads are STILL bigger than life for they are WHO THEY ARE and we are blessed to be their daughters...let us offer that mystery that you share with us in this post...and ask the Lord to help us accept, embrace, and LOVE THE CROSS.
Thanks for this inspiring post.