Intentions of the Holy Father for April

Ecology and Justice. That governments may foster the protection of creation and the just distribution of natural resources.
Hope for the Sick. That the Risen Lord may fill with hope the hearts of those who are being tested by pain and sickness.

Haiti and God's Providence

There's been a lot of nonsense lately about Haiti - everything from remarks about it being divine retribution, to attempted pleasantries about it all being for the best.

Something I've been focusing a lot on lately, for personal reasons and because of more public affairs, is the authentic meaning of joy and hope.

St. Therese of Lisieux asked in a letter how it was that Jesus, without ever being deprived of the joy of the beatific vision, could yet experience such utter emptiness and abandonment on the cross. She answered herself that she did not know, but only knew that it was possible because she herself was experiencing it during her own painfully fatal conflict with tuberculosis. Joy, for a Christian, isn't mere happiness any more than love is mere warm feelings toward another. Joy is the knowledge of the presence of God's Kingdom, the knowledge of His will at work - even when it is hidden-and-not-yet-present.

The cheapness of religious cant isn't that it's false to say that God's Providence includes even the catastrophic suffering of innocents. If God's Providence doesn't include suffering and death, then it's worthless. It isn't false to say, "God has a plan, and this, eventually will be drawn into the good." But also isn't the point, and it is cheap to say to someone who is in the throes of suffering, unless you are darn sure they are prepared to hear it.

The cheapness of religious cant is that it subsumes one reality - that of pain, suffering, and death - into another one: the victory of God. It tries to make the sorrow "go away," and not for a commitment to truth or to the person suffering, but simply out fear of the discomfort of facing the truth of the person suffering.

When we are suffering, it is good to remind ourselves of God's Providence, and that He is as displeased with the pain we are experiencing as we are, and to ask ourselves, and Him, honestly, what role this might play in His plan for our lives. When others are suffering, it is probably better just to listen presently at whatever length, help them practically in ways they might need or request, let them ask their own questions in their own time, and let our presence in persona Christi serve as an unspoken answer.

No comments: