St Francis Q&A

Saturday, August 30, 2008

"Why does God allow suffering?"

Here are my notes from the talk, “Why Does God Allow Suffering?”, during the summer series:

-resource – JP II (“On the Christian Meaning of Suffering”)

I. Calcutta / Jeremiah
- “my eyes stream with tears… over the great destruction which
overwhelms…my people…look! those slain by the sword…look! Those
consumed by hunger” (14: 17-18)
- he saw the vast pains of the people of Judah due to war, famine, and drought
- he’s essentially saying to God, 'Lord, do you see this?'
- similar to the question we like to ask, ‘why does God allow suffering?’

II. Why does God allow suffering? (similar to, ‘why does God allow sin?’)
- a mystery (how an all-loving God could allow suffering in the world He
-we don’t claim to know full answer; just what’s been revealed

a. God’s active plan / perfect plan – He wills no suffering or death
God’s passive plan - He allows suffering and death

- God = good
- Paradise - all good
- original state of holiness and justice
- harmony b/w man and woman & all creation
- “as long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not
have to suffer or die” (#376)
- Wis 1:13 - “God did not make death, nor does He rejoice in the
destruction of the living”

b. How did suffering enter the world? SIN (explain Orig. Sin)

- Free Will (God respects our freedom that much)
- suffering is consequence of free will / choice to sin

c. Suffering is a natural result of sin
- Jer 14: “We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that
we have sinned against you” (v.20).
- our sins or the sins of others
- diff. types of evil – moral (adultery, e.g.)
- natural (Hurricane Katrina, e.g.)
- physical (disease, e.g.)

III. Why does God allow good people to suffer?
“ innocent “ ?

1) why “ a young mother of 3 to get cancer?
2) why “ a young bride to become a widow after 3 years of marriage?
3) why “ an elderly, devout Catholic to suffer so much physically?

IV. CRUCIFIX: Why did God allow this (His own son to suffer)?
- same question as those above; (use in counseling ppl)

• Christ is ultimate innocent victim (never sinned)
• F has infinite love for S; not punishing Him

a. Our justification / salvation
- “he was pierced for our offenses” (Is 53:5)
- “by his wounds you have been healed” (1 Pt 2:24)
- “this is my body….this is my blood… shed for you and for all so that
sins may be forgiven”

b. LOVE: sacrificial love (greatest love)
- teaches it and lives it

c. Union with poor and suffering (who are dependent on God)
- “my God, my God…”
- unites with lonely, depressed, rejected, isolated

d. Bring a greater good (grace of Christ)
- “God permits evil in order to draw forth some greater good. As St. Paul
says, ‘where sin increased, grace abounded all the more’”
– St. Thomas Aquinas

V. (repeat) Why does God allow innocent people to suffer?
(suffering of the guilty is due to their own sin
suffering of the innocent is due to sins of others)

- be in union with His Son
- F has infinite love for His Son
- “ for those in union with His Son
(trust, too; MT quote)

If we are suffering and can’t attribute it to any sin of our own,
- just like He wasn’t punishing Christ on the Cross

a. Join in Christ’s work of justification / salvation
- St Paul – “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I
am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on
behalf of his body, which is the Church” (Col 1:24)

- ‘offer it up’ / Marian
- our suffering can be salvific

b. LOVE (greatest love) / purification
- “Love is always a process involving purifications, renunciations, and
painful transformations of ourselves” (PB XVI)

- “God chastises those who are close to Him” (Judith 8:27)
(He loves)

c. Union with poor and suffering
- “blessed are the poor” (dependent on, trust in God)

d. Bring greater good
- Job: returned more than he originally had

1) Tree Paccassi: Joy
2) Woman in nursing home: Healing of family

VI. Mother Teresa / suffering
- “the best way to imitate Christ is through suffering; those who are closest to Jesus on Earth are those who suffer the most”

a. great graces available and powerful prayers of those who suffer
- Arcola residents, sick – pray for parish, youth, specific situations
b. right there with Christ, united with Him on the Cross
- Shannon

VIII. Conclusion
What are God’s feelings about those who suffer?
- most likely, the same as Jeremiah’s.
- God’s “eyes stream with tears” seeing His children in pain. Ultimately, His answer to the question of suffering is that He sends His Son to suffer for our sake so that we might be saved / transgressions/ by his wounds we are healed (of suffering)

Adoration – “thank you, Father, for sending your Son”
- “thank you, Jesus”


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