St John's Q&A

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

"Why did God allow this to happen?"

Last week, a beautiful, twelve year old, Catholic girl was in the hospital because her appendix burst. When she returned home after her painful ordeal, she asked me, "why did God allow this to happen?" Whenever I hear people ask this question, I point them to a crucifix, and say, "why did God allow that to happen?" The Father has infinite and unending love for His own son, and yet, He let him suffer tremendously while on Earth.

When I was in Calcutta years ago, the sister who succeeded Mother Teresa as the head of the Missionaries of Charity said to me, "the greatest way to imitate Christ is to suffer. Those who are closest to Jesus on earth are those who suffer the most". The 12 year old girl is a great friend of Jesus Christ! Already in her young life she has had the opportunity to carry a part of Jesus' cross. The Father trusts this little girl in a big way. He'll never give any of us a cross that's too big for us to carry.

Normally, our suffering involves crosses that we don't choose. We accept them as Christ freely accepted his. He was an innocent victim who suffered for our sake: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends" (Jn 15). Any of us who lay down our lives in any way and suffer for the sake of love are in intimate friendship with Christ. We do choose to make small sacrifices in Lent in order to become closer to Him, body and soul.

Who, then, are the greatest friends of Jesus Christ? Who see concrete signs in their lives of being loved and trusted by their heavenly Father? Those who are in physical, psychological, personal, or spiritual pain...those who hunger and thirst... those who are rejected and lonely... persecuted...outcasts... are laughed at... homeless... victims of violence...victims of disasters... etc. Those who carry their daily crosses are Jesus' closest friends.

Christian suffering, then, has great meaning. Our whole faith is centered on the suffering of our Savior. Suffering leads to love, and as I will write in an upcoming post, and it leads to glory. This seems like foolishness to the world, but as St Paul writes, "it is the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1). Ultimately, then, suffering is a sign of God's love. Anyone who imitates the Son in suffering for the sake of love receives the infinite and unending love of the Father.
Any other friends of Christ that I missed? Any stories of people who have taken up serious crosses? Anyone for whom we can pray?


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