Finding Meaning in Suffering


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Reflections by Fr. Joseph Muller, MSC based on the Bishops of New Zealand's document on human suffering "A Shoreless Ocean."

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Finding Meaning in Suffering

  1. 1. Finding Meaning in Suffering<br />Reflections by Fr. Joseph Muller, MSC <br />Photo credit: PetrKratochvil<br />The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart  USA Province<br />305 S. Lake Street, PO Box 270  Aurora, IL 60507 (630) 892-2371 <br />
  2. 2. In the latter part of 2010 the Bishops of New<br />Zealand produced an insightful document on<br />human suffering which they entitled “A<br />Shoreless Ocean.”<br />
  3. 3. Quoting Romano Guardini, they chose that<br />image to address the unending enigma of<br />suffering that pervades every human life with<br />the hope of offering some real help to all who<br />suffer. For those who wish to read the entire<br />document, it can be found in the January 20th<br />2011 issue of “Origins.” As a stimulus, here are a<br />few highlights<br />
  4. 4. Although God created everything good, he did<br />not create a perfect world. <br />
  5. 5. “Man” is given the privileged responsibility of<br />using his gifts to assist the process of perfection,<br />a process that will never end. Understanding<br />this truth may assist us in grappling with<br />suffering. <br />
  6. 6. Our faith gives us some<br />real answers. It tells us<br />that suffering is an effect<br />of an original sin that<br />disturbed the relationship<br />between man and God,<br />man and nature. It caused<br />a tearing or a rending<br />which needs healing. <br />
  7. 7. Suffering is truly a puzzle which permeates the whole of creation. It forces us to ask Why? Where did it come from? What can we do about it? Can we never end it?<br />When God sent his Son into this world, he did so, not to end all suffering, but to embrace it and help us find new life through it. <br />
  8. 8. St. Paul, in his marvelous description of love (I<br />Cor13:4) lists patience as its first facet. The<br />meaning of that word is long-suffering. Hence<br />there is an inseparable connection between love<br />and suffering, obedience and suffering, new life<br />and suffering. <br />
  9. 9. St. Theresa of Calcutta tells<br />us that true love demands <br />sacrifice and sacrifice <br />causes pain. Only when we <br />accept the suffering as a <br />condition for new life do we <br />leave the door open to <br />something beneficial from a <br />set-back, heartbreak, <br />disappointment or tragedy. <br />
  10. 10. The greatest threat to<br />human life is not the<br />suffering - physical or<br />emotional - but from being<br />unloved, unwanted or<br />uncared for in the suffering.<br />Loving care is the answer.<br />Those who suffer seek not<br />only relief, but understanding<br />and acceptance in their suffering.<br />
  11. 11. And the simplest<br />sign of love-just<br />being there or<br />holding a person’s<br />hand—can make<br />all the difference<br />to a person’s<br />ability to find<br />peace and purpose<br />even in great discomfort. <br />
  12. 12. St. Therese of Lisieuxnoted<br />that the body cannot<br />function without a heart.<br />The heart is the symbol of<br />love. And human beings need<br />love, i.e. understanding and<br />care, or they will perish. <br />
  13. 13. In the Old Testament the book of Job probes the<br />mystery of suffering and helps the reader who<br />meditates on it to understand that it was only<br />through suffering that Job and his friends were<br />brought to a deeper understanding of who God<br />is, his abiding presence <br />with us and his plan for<br />our final welfare. “I know<br />that my Redeemer lives…<br />whom I myself shall see.”<br /> (Job 19:25-27)<br />
  14. 14. The life of Jesus is intimately bound up with<br />sufferings: opposition, misunderstanding, grief,<br />pain, shame and abandonment. But these are<br />always linked to his resurrection. And when<br />Jesus warns his followers to expect suffering in<br />their attempts to act like him, he adds that they<br />could look forward to a new life as well. <br />
  15. 15. The Mass, which<br />Jesus gave us, always<br />connects these<br />truths for us as it<br />encourages us to<br />persevere in<br />goodness and even<br />sacrifice ourselves<br />for others.<br />
  16. 16. The writer of Hebrews notes that Jesus learned<br />to obey from what he suffered. (Heb 5:8)<br />Submission to God and all lawful authority<br />causes us discomfort and downright suffering at<br />times, but it produces endurance.<br />
  17. 17. Endurance produces character<br />and character hope and hope<br />does not disappoint, because <br />God’s love has been poured<br />into our hearts through the<br />Holy Spirit.(Rom 5:3)<br />
  18. 18. This does not mean that we should seek suffering. <br />But when it comes, as surely it will, <br />these truths can help us. <br />
  19. 19. Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical on Christian<br />Hope urges us to do whatever we can to relieve<br />suffering of others, but to understand that this<br />will involve personal sacrifice. It is only by<br />embracing the <br />suffering entailed, in <br />union with Christ, <br />that we can find<br />meaning in it. <br />
  20. 20. A beautiful Sufi moral answers those who<br />accuse God of turning a blind eye to human<br />suffering. “Past the seeker, as he prayed, came<br />the crippled and the beggar and the beaten. And<br />seeing them he cried: ‘Great God, how is it that<br />a loving creator can see such things and yet do<br />nothing about them?’ And God said: ‘I did do<br />something. I made you.’”<br />
  21. 21. Jesus’ parting gift to us, to help<br />us in our sufferings, was his<br />mother. One of our Lady’s titles<br />is Our Lady of Sorrows. Her<br />“yes” to God opened the door<br />to new and unprecedented<br />sorrows in her life: suspicion,<br />humiliation, hardships,<br />misunderstanding, rejection, <br />heartbreak. <br />
  22. 22. The fact that she “stood<br />beneath the cross and<br />Jesus” and did not swoon<br />or run away speaks<br />volumes to the believer. <br />
  23. 23. She remained with<br />him, clinging blindly<br />to his promise of<br />resurrection. And<br />she was not<br />disappointed.<br />Neither will those<br />who cling to Christ<br />and who sacrifice<br />themselves to relieve<br />the pain of others.<br />
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  25. 25. Photo Credits<br />Slide #1: Underwater Light by PetrKratochvil (link)<br />Slide #2: Ocean Waves Close up by Shari Weinsheimer (link)<br />Slide #3: Blue Background by PetrKratochvil (Background image for several slides) (link)<br />Slide #4: Fresh Grass by PetrKratochvil (link)<br />Slide #5: Grass And the Sky Background by PetrKratochvil (link)<br />Slide #6: Sunrise by PetrKratochvil (link)<br />Slide #7: Carmel Splash by Edie Robinette (link)<br />Slide #8: Word Love in Sand by PetrKratochvil (link)<br />Slide #9: Red Rose by Anna Cervova (link)<br />Slide #10: Young and old holding hands, (link)<br />Slide #11: Mother and Baby by Anna Cervova (link)<br />Slide #12: image of Sacred Heart of Jesus<br />
  26. 26. Photo Credits<br />Slide #13: Beach 4 by Glenda Thomas (link)<br />Slide #15: Source:<br />Slide #17: Source:<br />Slide #18: Calm Sea by Michele Walters (link)<br />Slide #19: Wood on the Beach by Anna Cervova (link)<br />Slide #20: Spirit of the Flower by Roland Ally (link)<br />Slide #21: Image of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, taken from the booklet “150 Years of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart”<br />Slide #22: Image of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, taken from the booklet “150 Years of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart”<br />Slide #23: Cross by Josée Holland Eclipse (link)<br />Slide #24: Enhanced Rainbow by Barb VerSluis (link)<br />