Pope John Paul II on suffering and the rejection of God

In Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Pope John Paul II makes a profound comment about those who reject religion because of evil and the problem of suffering. (read chapter, “Why does God tolerate suffering?” — see text here and scroll down to the chapter) He says that they set themselves up as the judge of God, and in turn judge themselves. He says there is an “underhanded conspiracy.” I think of the spate of  books pretending to be objective and reject religion and God. They fear a God of love, the Pope said.

Therefore, the condemnation of God by man is not based on the truth, but on arrogance, on an underhanded conspiracy. Isn’t this the truth about the history of humanity, the truth about our century? In our time the same condemnation has been repeated in many courts of oppressive totalitarian regimes. And isn’t it also being repeated in the parliaments of democracies where, for example, laws are regularly passed condemning to death a person not yet born?

And is it not found in the scientists and celebreties who publish their scribbles denouncing God. Pilate at least had some dignity of office (which he squandered). These men put out their own shingle and get paid handsomely for their travesty.

Here is the truth they miss. “God is always on the side of the suffering. His omnipotence is manifested precisely in the fact that . .

He freely accepted suffering. He could have chosen not to do so. He could have chosen to demonstrate His omnipotence even at the moment of the Crucifixion. In fact, it was proposed to Him: “Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe” (Mk 15:32). But He did not accept that challenge. The fact that He stayed on the Cross until the end, the fact that on the Cross He could say, as do all who suffer: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk 15:34), has remained in human history the strongest argument. If the agony on the Cross had not happened, the truth that God is Love would have been unfounded.

The late  Fr Jaki would say that Darwinianism should be attacked on its despair over the meaning of life and its cruel rejection of love. “The judgment of God becomes a judgment of man.”

The Man of Suffering is the revelation of that Love which “endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7), of that Love which is the “greatest” (cf. 1 Cor 13:13). It is the revelation not only that God is Love but also the One who “pours out love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit” (cf. Rom 5:5). In the end, before Christ Crucified, the man who shares in redemption will have the advantage over the man who sets himself up as an unbending judge of God’s actions in his own life as well as in that of all humanity.

Augustine frequently cited Romans 5.5 to explain the grace of God. We are helpless before our own cruelty, sin, despair. But the God who is Love is also the One who “pours out love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.”

Thus we find ourselves at the center of the history of salvation. The judgment of God becomes a judgment of man. The divine realm and the human realm of this event meet, cross, and overlap. Here we must stop. From the Mount of the Beatitudes, the road of the Good News leads to Calvary, and passes through Mount Tabor, the Mount of the Transfiguration. The difficulty and the challenge of understanding the meaning of Calvary is so great that God Himself wanted to warn the apostles of all that would have to happen between Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

We do indeed stand at the center of the history of salvation. The judges of God become more numerous and they clamor for his blood. But the friends of the beatitudes also increase. From the “mount of the Beatitudes” we can know the truth about life and verify it daily, on that road to Calvary. Blessed are the poor in spirit . .  . Pope John Paul II live the life of the Beatitudes and he radiated joy and confidence..

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