Salvific Suffering and a Possibility of Meaning

Salvific Suffering and a Possibility of Meaning January 19, 2021

I have talked a few times recently about the existence of suffering (or, in commenter skl’s terms “endlessly”) and so it is pertinent of me to mention the then Pope’s 1984 letter on salvific suffering.

A few quotes for you from the letter:

In the Cross of Christ not only is the Redemption accomplished through suffering, but also human suffering itself has been redeemed,. Christ, – without any fault of his own – took on himself “the total evil of sin”. The experience of this evil determined the incomparable extent of Christ’s suffering, which became the price of the Redemption. [4]

In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ.[5]

Those who share in Christ’s sufferings have before their eyes the Paschal Mystery of the Cross and Resurrection, in which Christ descends, in a first phase, to the ultimate limits of human weakness and impotence: indeed, he dies nailed to the Cross. But if at the same time in this weakness there is accomplished his lifting up, confirmed by the power of the Resurrection, then this means that the weaknesses of all human sufferings are capable of being infused with the same power of God manifested in Christ’s Cross. In such a concept, to suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ. In him God has confirmed his desire to act especially through suffering, which is man’s weakness and emptying of self, and he wishes to make his power known precisely in this weakness and emptying of self. [6]

But perhaps even more overt is a quote from his Homily to the Father during the February 2000 Jubilee of the Sick Persons and Health Care Workers:

Dear brothers and sisters, some of you have been confined to a bed of pain for years:  I pray God that today’s meeting will bring you extraordinary physical and spiritual relief! I would like this moving celebration to offer everyone, the healthy and the sick, an opportunity to meditate on the saving value of suffering.

3. Pain and sickness are part of the human mystery on earth. It is, of course, right to fight illness, because health is a gift of God. But it is also important to be able to discern God’s plan when suffering knocks at our door. The “key” to this discernment is found in the Cross of Christ.

The incarnate Word embraced our weakness, taking it upon himself in the mystery of the Cross. Since then all suffering has a possibility of meaning, which makes it remarkably valuable. For 2,000 years, since the day of the Passion, the Cross shines as the supreme manifestation of God’s love for us. Those who are able to accept it in their lives experience how pain illumined by faith becomes a source of hope and salvation.

A “possibility of meaning” sounds very much like skeptical theism.

All part of that mysterious plan. So that’s okay, then, right?


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