Why is there suffering?

Latin Mass: 2nd Sunday after Easter
Friends in Christ, in the Epistle today from St. Peter, we read: ‘Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.’
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Suffering is part of this life, no one can deny that. As we saw in Holy Week, suffering was the path to our redemption. In the resurrection, Jesus showed his apostles the nail prints in his hands and feet – evidence that suffering is central to the mystery of salvation.
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But the suffering in the world can make people question their faith. Young people sometimes ask: ‘How can God allow suffering?’ ‘If God is all good and all powerful, why does he allow this to happen to me, or my brother, or my mother?’ ‘Why does he allow people to be tortured and persecuted?’ ‘Why is there cancer?’
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This is one of the greatest questions there is. It is called ‘the problem of evil.’
Now contained in this question are two different types of evil. Physical evil and moral evil.
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Physical evil is: why does God allow cancer, or earthquakes, or typhoons; why does God allow a person to be attacked by a shark? ‘Why did my father have to die?’ These are causes of suffering which are not due to anyone’s fault, but due to nature. Like those innocent sheep in the gospel today who the wolf attacks, it is an act of nature.
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The other kind of evil is moral evil. Why does God allow ISIS to kill innocent Christian people? Why does God allow a gang member to kill a child in the city, or your friend to be beaten up by bullies? Why does God permit these evils? These are ‘moral evils,’ they are caused directly by sin.
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Atheists often bring up this question of evil: ‘The evil in the world proves there is no God. If God were all powerful and all good, he would not allow suffering.’ So what can we say about this?
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First let’s say the small things, and then the big thing.
First, Free-Will
If God were going to stop the gang member from shooting, if he miraculously stopped the bullet in mid-air; or if, when the bully is going to throw the punch, his arm miraculously would freeze up and in this way, no one would be capable of ever hurting another, then we would really be robots controlled by God, there would no longer be free-will. God has given us a great gift: free-will. He wants us to use it to love him, but the Lord must weep often, over how it is wrongly used to hurt others. And every parent often feels this same frustration, seeing children use their free-will, not always for good things.
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God also allows the devil to exercise his free-will; the devil was the original source of all the moral evil, and the demons create enormous pain in the world by their temptations. So this is one reason that God allows moral evil: free-will. and we must say that he ALLOWS all this, but he does not desire it. It is his permissive will, not his active will. God weeps over the suffering of the world.
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Another thing for us to consider, is that God is working on a much larger scale than we are. He can see the very long-term effects of things. God is painting a masterpiece that extends over millions of years. If you put your face up close to a painting, you may say: ‘This black smudge is ugly, what a mistake.’ But backing away a distance, one can see that that black spot is a very important part of the entire painting.
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We see a handicapped child in a family; why did God allow this? And then we meet the brothers and sisters and parents, and we find out that that handicapped child has made all of them into better people: kind, patient, and giving. We can sometimes see good that comes out of trouble.
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God allows some people to be cruel, irritating, or unkind; but it is just these persons who allow another to be patient, serene, and long-suffering. How can we pray for our enemies, unless we have some? For most of us to become a saint, there must be another person in our life – ‘to make us a saint,’ if you know what I mean!! So God can bring good out of evil, even if we can’t always see it.
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God also wants nature to be free. He allows cancer cells to grow in their own way, he allows sharks to do what sharks do and germs to do what germs do. The wind and seas move as they will; the earth’s crust shifts in a freedom all it’s own.
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In the 2004 earthquake/Sunami, thousands of people died. This tragic event however produced an enormous amount of compassion and aid and generosity on the part of others. ‘But all those people died,’ you say. yes. But that isn’t the end of the story for them, is it?
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A man and woman were chatting in a barber shop in New York. The TV was on. They saw the devastation from the Sunami. The man shook his head. ‘Life is terrible.’ The woman said, ‘No, life is beautiful, but it’s full of pain.’
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Among the smaller answers to the question of pain in the world, we have to say this: Say the Cubs are playing the Cardinals and they win easily. The fans would be happy. But that’s not the kind of game God has in mind. If the Cubs and Cardinals instead are in a battle of the century; the lead changes back and forth; men get injured, it goes extra innings – 18 innings – 25 innings. Both bullpens are used up. And victory comes in the 28th inning on a squeeze play at the plate – this is more like God’s world. In life we often have to claw and scratch for every inch; but this how God can make us great.
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These are some of the smaller reasons we can mention. But how really do we answer the atheist? Let us ask: ‘If there is no God, then what? Then suffering is totally meaningless, then everything is meaningless.
But St. Paul has a different answer: ‘We are heirs with Christ,’ he says, ‘provided – provided that we suffer with him – that we may also be glorified with him.’
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God has not totally explained the Mystery of suffering, but it is true that God himself has come into the world and has joined himself to our suffering. He didn’t take it away, but he has chosen to be IN all of our pain along with us, giving it meaning. It was through suffering, that he saved the world. And when our suffering is united to Christ, we are doing what Jesus did, we are helping him save the world.
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A lady was giving a lecture at the hospital to all the chaplains. She told us about a woman with cancer, who refused pain medicine, because she ‘wanted to offer her pain up for her family.’ The protestant chaplains laughed and said ‘it’s foolish.’ But we Catholics did not laugh; we had respect.
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God has not taken away suffering, but he has joined into it, with us. In heaven, when the meaning of all things is revealed, after the pain of this life – we will finally see the end of the story. We must therefore trust God today, until we are able to see the end of the story.
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May the blessed Virgin assist us in all the trials of this life, that we may see her glorious face with Jesus, in heaven.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of St. Teresa of Avila]

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