I am right in the thick of Pope Benedict's Encyclical Spe Salvi which was published in November, 2007. It seems to be taking me forever because I keep putting it down and coming back to it. Not because it's boring, though, but because it is simply overflowing with beauty!
I'd like to share with you just one tidbit of information from this letter on suffering. Pope Benedict says that "Suffering stems partly from our finitude, and partly from the mass of sin which has accumulated over the course of history, and continues to grow unabated today."
Here we have our Holy Father identifying why we suffer. It is because, as human beings, there is a limit to us and secondly, because the perpetuation of sin is immense!
But for any of you that have considered that our world would be perfect without sin, and are, perhaps, rallying against a God who allows it to persist, keep the following in mind.
Again, from Pope Benedict:
"Indeed, we must do all we can to overcome suffering, but to banish it from the world altogether is not in our power." Only God, he tells us, has the power to do this and we are reminded that only the Lamb of God can take away the sins of the world.
But, if you are like me, you have often wondered why, if Jesus can take away the sins of the world, does sin prevail? Pope Benedict reminds us quite beautifully that . . .
"Through faith in the existence of this power, hope for the world's healing has emerged in history. It is, however, hope--not yet fulfilment . . . "
And there you have it. We must never lose hope in the eternal justice of God who will prevail in taking away the sins of the world--some day--and remember that it is not in our power to do it.
If you have trouble with the idea of overcoming suffering (which typically arises from sin, but is not sin or punishment itself), think of my son . . .
Our son has been suffering for about a week or so from a wisdom tooth that will soon be pulled. In the meantime, I can throw Ibuprofen at him to try to "overcome" his suffering, but I am unable to remove the suffering. That can only be done by his oral surgeon.
Hmm. God, the great oral surgeon who rids the world of sin and suffering! Now there's a visual for you!
Honestly, we must do what we can in the face of suffering, but continue in hope for the day when the sins of the world, which cause so much of our suffering, will be taken away by God, who is always with us.