John Paul II On Evil and Suffering

A student at UST, Joseph Ramos, was the leader for a discussion of the theme of evil and suffering in Crossing the Threshold of Hope. He found an interesting passage in Salvifici doloris that captures the key insight of Pope John Paul II:

Even though Paul, in the Letter to the Romans, wrote that “the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now”, even though man knows and is close to the sufferings of the animal world, nevertheless what we express by the word “suffering” seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is as deep as man himself, precisely because it manifests in its own way that depth which is proper to man, and in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense “destined” to go beyond himself, and he is called to this in a mysterious way. §2

Joseph pointed out that John Paul II has said, it has been shown throughout history that evil has caused mankind to question the existence of God and the nature of his existence. For example, every religion on earth, or the denial of such religions, is precisely the result of a conclusion about the nature of God and his existence.

These passages from Crossing the Threshold of Hope are worth pondering: “ God . . . desires to justify himself to mankind.” (62);  “His wisdom and omnipotence are placed by free choice at the service of creation.”(63) ; “If suffering is present in the history of humanity, one understands why his omnipotence was manifested in the omnipotence of humiliation on the Cross.”; “Christ is proof of God’s solidarity with man in his suffering”. In calling our attention to the true location of the omnipotence of God in the humiliation of the Cross, John Paul II is returning to the question concerning how we must understand God’s essence. What does it mean if God’s power is most perfectly manifest in the humiliation of the Cross?

Joseph proposed that the paschal mystery is as much a revelation of the nature of God as any other theophany. The paschal mystery reveal to us something about the life of God. It reveals something that had never previously been said of God: God suffers–even at the hands of sinners, those whose existence is dependent on Him! If suffering is an aspect of the divine life, it follows that suffering must be a transcendent property of human life..

  1. Cf. GS-22; It seems to me that it is precisely in the liminal experiences of the Paschal Mystery–with its interplay of suffering, love and obedience -passion in the truest sense — that Jesus, in his person, most perfectly reveals God to man and man unto himself. From the depth of His suffering He reveals the depth of His love, both as God for man and as man for God. Suffering, then, is almost inextricably connected to another transcendent, namely love, wherein one becomes a sort of school for the other — a person who has suffered can love well, and a person who loves can suffer well — note "can," and not "will."

  2. Very well said, Timothy. Thank you

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