Friday, April 29, 2011



In spite of the event as awesome as the resurrection of Jesus, man remains deeply entangled with the existential forces of darkness and the perennial problem of evil. It seems that the power of the resurrection has never made a dent on the invincibility of evil that has bound man to its tight grip. The Good News that “the Christ is risen” would once and for all put an end to man’s earthly problems, sufferings, anguish, agony and death , but it appears to be a dud, an empty promise. As it is, the Easter joy has been proclaimed with all the pomp that the Church could muster, but communities of believers, Christian families, and individual faithful are still struggling with the problems of hunger, misunderstandings in societal relations, violent separations of loved ones, hatred for one another, deceits and betrayal, sexual promiscuity and moral corruption, religious persecutions and prejudices, jealousies, pride, despondency, despair. Paul though converted to the faith and had an intense experience of the risen Lord in his life was not exempted from inwardly contending with his own personal existential problem of sin and evil that in his estimation had no end. And so, disgusted with his fate, he agonizingly once exclaimed: “In my inmost self I dearly love God’s Law, but I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates. This is what makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?” (Rm 7:22-24)

Benedict XVI, deeply endowed with a sensitive soul, has used his talent to help man face this kind of problems. In his talks and in his writings he plunges deep into the reason of all these and proclaims to him God’s gracious intervention. The Encyclical “Spe Salvi” was precisely written by him in order to help modern man with the problem of suffering. Here he discussed in full length the meaning of hope vis-a-vis the stark realities of man. And then, recently, this Good Friday he took the opportunity to speak to all men of good will regarding suffering. It is for this reason that he veered off a bit from his regular schedule for that day. As he pondered on the sufferings and death of Jesus, he saw this same Jesus as he descended to the dead assuming unto His own Self all the sufferings and deaths of all living creatures, men of the technological age included. As the successor of Peter and as a Vicar of Christ, he felt the obligation to talk about sufferings directly to the world. By listening intently to the tale of men’s woes, empathizing with them, and extending to them his deep compassion, he believed that he would be putting himself in the position of service to help men bear the brunt of their pains and anguish.

For that to happen, he went on T.V. and opened himself to queries from the different sectors of suffering humanity. The first question came from a Japanese girl who in her innocence and simplicity came up with an interesting query. She said: "My name is Elena. I am Japanese and I am seven years old. I am very frightened because the house where I felt safe really shook a lot and many children my age have died. I cannot go to play at the park. I want to know: why do I have to be so afraid? Why do children have to be so sad? I'm asking the Pope, who speaks with God, to explain it to me". The pope obliged: “Dear Elena, I send you my heartfelt greetings. I also have the same questions: why is it this way? Why do you have to suffer so much while others live in ease? And we do not have the answers but we know that Jesus suffered as you do, an innocent, and that the true God who is revealed in Jesus is by your side. This seems very important to me, even if we do not have answers, even if we are still sad; God is by your side and you can be certain that this will help you... Be assured, we are with you, with all the Japanese children who are suffering. We want to help you with our prayers, with our actions, and you can be sure that God will help you.”

The pope’s answer to an innocent question was lengthy and cautious. For how can one explain to an innocent child a mystery that has for centuries baffled the mind of man? The simplest answer to the child could have been to bring her to a time machine, set it back to the past just before the big earthquake and the giant tsunami, and have her see Japan in its original splendour. But that can only happen in the rich imagination and creativity of the movie makers. The Holy Father had to console a child of seven, now experiencing the violence of nature and the havoc that it had created to her and her people. And so, he had to be careful with his exposition, cautious to say that reality, no matter how cruel, has to be lived and embraced; that the havoc is not a chance, but the plan of the great Designer; that she is not alone in her sufferings; that he as a pope is with her in her pain and sadness.

The resurrection of Jesus has not taken away from man his suffering, heartaches, pain of separation, death. But it does implant into each one of us, that substance, that pledge, that energy, to face all kinds of trials with courage. This hope gives us this hard evidence that the triumph of Jesus over suffering and death is also our triumph over suffering and death.