Sometimes I feel so sorry for the suffering people in this world, the ones in civil war or genocide, the ones who endured the Holocaust and are still recovering, the starving children, mothers, women, and men in Haiti who eat mud because they have no money for food, the faithful priests and religious who must live in the midst of the Catholic Church in chastity. It is not enough to feel sorry as there is very little that I know to do and perhaps I lack strength/courage to do more. And I wonder how a God who loves all of us, even the poor, could give these trials to some. But today I was reading Jesus of Nazareth by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and was reminded of St. Francis of Assisi, who endured the stigmata. St. Catherine of Siena, St. Padre Pio, and St. Gemma Galgani (honestly I know so little of her that I don’t want to comment) also endured the stigmata. How does that speak to us about the love of Christ in the midst of suffering? If you see a World Happiness Survey, you also find that in some of the poorest countries in the world, the people are among the happiest? What does this mean?
That means that material possessions are not the source of true happiness. Jesus said (Matthew 6:19):
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal. But store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.
It is quite an astounding mystery you’re prodding the edges of, AveSantaMaria! I can’t tell you the answer- just a little that I do know. Our normal condition in life is one of enormous physical attachment to the world and to the self. We cannot realize how utterly attached to the world we are, because we are so self-glorifying by nature, and blind. That is how we are naturally, just “nice people” going about our normal lives, with all these egotistical thoughts about how to make others like or praise us more, how to please ourselves in our spare time, etc. It’s about us. But we don’t think about it that way.
When many Christians give up or lose something dear to them for God, the feeling of loss creates a greater awareness within them of how deeply attached to the world they really are. When they feel how much it hurts to give up a small thing for God, they sometimes get to thinking about how it would hurt to give up this for God, or this, bigger things, and suddenly they realize much more than they had in the past how small they really are, how feeble little human losses are. They realize how much the self dominates them, and become more firmly resolved to escape the self, because they don’t like what they see. Escaping the self, of course, has its own natural spiritual rewards, and is a great and necessary goal for all believers.
I think that that’s how it works in at least some cases. I don’t know how it works for everyone.
Losing material things causes believers to respond by ceasing to rely on material things. Suffering can cause the soul to cease lavishing its intentions on petty pleasures – suddenly what before had been consuming now is trivial – and the soul seeks and in a lot of cases finds what truly matters more. The soul turns toward the God that loves it, the source of all true happiness, and toward loving its neighbors.
These are some of the ways people are blessed through suffering, I believe. Other people’s worlds completely shatter and they resort to grave evil when suffering, because they didn’t have sufficient faith from the outset to hold them steady. Suffering can bring out the best or the worst in people. I find it fascinating what you said, though, about how suffering can create great happiness in people.
What you said reminds me of this Christian family a mission group I was on built a house for in Mexico. They had previously had only a shack, and they lived in a community where everyone lived in squalor. We saw great poverty there. But this family was happy! You could see the joy and peace in their faces. The boys played with sticks, not video games, but they were far happier than most American youth. It was a very beautiful experience.
God works in very mysterious and counterintuitive ways. As He said in the Book of Isaiah, “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my thoughts above your thoughts and my ways above your ways.”
Profound thought/question, indeed “ASM”.
Unfortunately, I don’t have much to offer to you. Just that… as the Suffering of Our Lord Jesus Christ… is a Mystery. So is the value He gave to human suffering. Of that, there is no doubt.
The Pastoral Minister from our parish is a friend of ours… and he has often commented to us, about the suffering of the people in our sister parish (Honduras); how these poor people live (plain, board houses; dirt floors; no utilities) and how little they possess. And yet, to him… they do seem to be genuinely happy people. Even in the midst of their “want”.
Then you come back home. And you see people driving around in expensive cars, wearing beautiful clothes, iPods and Blackberries in hand, “Blue tooths” in their ears… and yet, they seem to keep wanting more. No amount seems enough. Just one episode of the nightly news is enough to convince me of the “condition” of people in the U.S.
So sad. :nope: Our priorities are definitely misplaced.
Thank you so much for all of your insightful thoughts!
My dear friend
Good question. I guess you have to give the cross value. In order to do this you must see it for what it is- a great blessing from God. When seen this way the burden goes.
God bless and peace to you:thumbsup:
Ave Santa Maria, you’ve been given a great gift to be able to feel compassion for the suffering of others. God bless you. The true joy of feeling God’s love has nothing to do with money and material things.