We can try to limit suffering, to fight against it, but we cannot eliminate it. It is when we attempt to avoid suffering by withdrawing from anything that might involve hurt, when we try to spare ourselves the effort and pain of pursuing truth, love, and goodness, that we drift into a life of emptiness, in which there may be almost no pain, but the dark sensation of meaninglessness and abandonment is all the greater. It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love… Christ descended into “Hell” and is therefore close to those cast into it, transforming their darkness into light. Suffering and torment is still terrible and well- nigh unbearable. Yet the star of hope has risen—the anchor of the heart reaches the very throne of God. Instead of evil being unleashed within man, the light shines victorious: suffering—without ceasing to be suffering—becomes, despite everything, a hymn of praise.
Spe Salvi 37
Reflection – You know, there are passages from this encyclical that really need very little commentary from me, that are well-nigh perfect in themselves. This is one of them. All I would really have to say is that I believe the Pope has squarely identified here the primary pathology of the 20th and 21st centuries. This is the root of abortion, of contraception, of pornography, of consumerism, of greed, of fascism, of so many of the behaviors and ideologies that have driven us to the edge of the abyss we are on today.When we fear suffering above all other things, when we are willing to do anything—kill our children, mutilate our bodies, suspend civil liberties, run away from painful relationships, flee into a world of fantasy and lies—rather than bear the suffering that is inevitable in this world, then we fall into this terrible abyss of meaningless dark emptiness.
This is our current pathology; Christ is the current (and eternal) answer. God penetrated suffering. God suffuses every corner, every facet, every moment and movement of the human condition. He has come; He is here; He has fused Himself with us in our human experience, most particularly in our suffering and death. And so we have nothing to fear; suffering, fear, anguish, terror, death have been touched by God in Jesus Christ. And so there is hope. Suffering, fear, anguish, terror, and death are not the last word. The last word is love, resurrection, joy, victory, a hymn of praise.
But we have to cling to Him. And we have to stop fleeing suffering. We have to stop doing terrible things to ourselves, one another, our children, in our vain futile effort to put an end to suffering. We have to cling to Him, and enter whatever suffering comes to us in love and patient endurance, knowing that ‘patient endurance attains all things; who possesses God wants for nothing; God alone suffices’ (Teresa of Avila).
I guess I did have a few things to say about this passage after all…