Suffering is a part of our human existence. Suffering stems partly from our finitude, and partly from the mass of sin that has accumulated over the course of history, and continues to grow unabated today. Certainly we must do whatever we can to reduce suffering: to avoid as far as possible the suffering of the innocent; to soothe pain; to give assistance in overcoming mental suffering. These are obligations both in justice and in love, and they are included among the fundamental requirements of the Christian life and every truly human life. Great progress has been made in the battle against physical pain; yet the sufferings of the innocent and mental suffering have, if anything, increased in recent decades.
Indeed, we must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power. This is simply because we are unable to shake off our finitude and because none of us is capable of eliminating the power of evil, of sin which, as we plainly see, is a constant source of suffering. Only God is able to do this: only a God who personally enters history by making himself man and suffering within history. We know that this God exists, and hence that this power to “take away the sin of the world” (Jn ) is present in the world. Through faith in the existence of this power, hope for the world's healing has emerged in history. It is, however, hope—not yet fulfillment; hope that gives us the courage to place ourselves on the side of good even in seemingly hopeless situations, aware that, as far as the external course of history is concerned, the power of sin will continue to be a terrible presence.
Spe Salvi 36
Reflection – Hope means being able to do what is right even when in worldly terms we will fail. Hope means taking up the lost cause, being on ‘the wrong side of history’, as the saying goes so very often these days. It means standing up for what we know is right even if this means being exposed to increasing hostility, insult, hatred, financial loss, and even physical attack or government coercion in the future.
Hope means being willing to be martyred. We live in this world where ‘the power of sin will continue to be a terrible presence.’ God is God, and our lives and eternal souls are in his merciful hands, but there is no question that we do not know what is going to happen in our societies in the days ahead and just how far the hostility towards religion and its traditional moral codes will be allowed to go.
We are not to be paranoid or live in fear, anxiety, or anger about these things. We are to be very simple, to know that our lives do indeed belong to God, and that we are to continue placing ourselves on the side of good, even when the prevailing currents of the day loudly and angrily inform us that we are on the side of evil.
And so I reiterate, with love and compassion for all who struggle with all of what follows: marriage is between one man and one woman, ordained by God so that the creation of new human life emerges from and is sustained by unity of persons in love of body and soul; homosexual intercourse is opposed to the law of God, and those inclined to those acts are called by God to a beautiful life of chastity and continence; contraceptive methods to render the sexual act infertile are a grave evil, as are all the methods of assisted reproduction that separate conception from sexual union of husband and wife; abortion is an ever more grave evil, destroying the life of a human being in the most horrific way; we must not directly cause the death of the elderly and ill—life and death belong to God.
I hope that these views, some of which are widely held even now, some of which are increasingly marginalized and mocked, will prevail. But they may not—it is our task to keep stating them, with patience and love, with hope in God’s mercy and His desire to save all his children and bring us all into his kingdom.