Nov. 6: Why Is There So Much Evil in the World? Why Does God Tolerate Suffering? What Does "To Save" Mean?

Nov. 6, 7:30 PM
Parish Hall

Join us as we discuss the following sections of the book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope by St. John Paul II.  Excerpts are found on the main post page.

Why Is There So Much Evil in the World?  p. 60

Why Does God Tolerate Suffering?  p. 64

What Does "To Save" Mean?  p.69

and more...


Why Is There So Much Evil in the World?
How to continue to trust in a God who is supposed to be a merciful Father, in a God who - as the New Testament reveals - is meant to be Love itself, when suffering , injustice, sickness, and death seem to dominate the larger history of the world as well as our smaller daily lives?
p. 60

The Cross remains constant while the world turns. 

As I stated earlier, we find ourselves at the center of the history of salvation.  ...that [evil] which is the source of recurring doubt not only in regard to the goodness of God but also in regard to His very existence.  How could God have permitted so many wars, concentration camps, the Holocaust? 

Is the God who allows all this still truly Love, as St. John probliams in hif First Letter?  Indeed, is He just with respect to His creatures?  Doesn't He place too many burdens on the shoulders of individuals? ...incurably ill people... handicaped children... lives completely denied ordinary happiness on this earth that comes from love, marriage, and family.  

The history of salvation is also the history of man's continual judgement of God. ...Book of Job is the paradigm of this judgment.  There is also the intervention of the evil spirit, who, with even greater shrewdness than man, would judge not only man but God's actions in human history. ...confirmed in the Book of Job. 

Scandalum Curcis (The Scandal of the Cross) ... Was putting His Son to death on the Cross necessary for the salvation of humanity? 

 Could it have been different? Could God have justified Himself before human history, so full of suffering, without placing Christ's Cross at the center of that history? … But God, who besides being Omnipotence is Wisdom and - Love, desires to justify Himself to mankind.  He is not the Absolute that remains outside of the world, indifferent to human suffering.  He is Emmanuel, God-with-us, a God who shares man's lot and participates in his destiny.   This brings to light another inadequacy, the completely false image of God which the Enlightenment accepted uncritically.... a step backward,  not in the direction of  a better knowledge of God and the world, but in the direction of misunderstanding them. 

God is not someone who remains only outside of the world... His wisdom and omnipotence are placed, by free choice, at the service of creation.  If suffering is present in the history of humanity, one understands why His omnipotence was  manifested in the omnipotence of humiliation on the Cross.  The scandal of the Cross remains the key to the interpretation of the great mystery of suffering, which is so much a part of the history of mankind. 

...the crucified Christ is proof of God's solidarity with man in his suffering.  God places Himself on the side of man.  He does so in a radical way: 'He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:7-8)  Everything is contained in this statement. 

Why Does God Tolerate Suffering?
Faith affirms that God is omnipotent.  Why, then, hasn't he eliminated - and does He persist in the not eliminating - suffering in the world he created?  

p. 64

Yes, in a certain sense one could say that confronted with our human freedom, God decided to make Himself "impotent.'" And one could say that God is paying for the great gift bestowed upon a being He created "in his image, after his likeness" (Gn 1:26) Before this gift, He remains consistent, and places Himself before the judgement of man, before an illegitimate tribunal which asks Him provocative questions:  "Then you are a king? (Jn 18:37)…

"For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth" (Jn 18:37).  But then: 'What is truth?" (Jn 18:38), and here ended the judicial proceeding, that tragic proceeding in which man accused God before the tribunal of his own history, and in which the sentence handed down did not conform to the truth. Pilate says: "I find no guilt in him" (Jn 18:38), and a second later he orders: "Take him yourselves and crucify him!" (Jn 19:6).  In this way he washes his hands of the issue and returns the responsibility to the violent crowd.

Therefore, the condemnation of God by man is not based on the truth, but on arrogance, on an underhanded conspiracy. 

Isn't this the truth about the history of humanity, the truth about our century? … repeated in many courts of oppressive totalitarian regimes... in the parliaments of democracies where, for example, laws are regularly passed condemning to death a person not yet born?  

God is always on the side of the suffering.  His omnipotence is manifested precisely in the fact that He freely accepted suffering.  He could have chosen not to do so.   He could have chosen to demonstrate His omnipotence even at the moment of the Crucifixion.  In fact, it was proposed to Him: "let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe" (Mk 15:32).  But He did not accept that challenge.  The fact that He stayed on the Cross until the end, the fact that on the Cross he could say, as do all who suffer: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  (Mk 15:34), has remained in human history the strongest argument.  If the agony on the Cross had not happened, the truth that God is Love would have been unfounded. 

Yes! God is Love and precisely for this He gave His Son, to reveal Himself completely as Love.  Christ is the One who "loved...  to the end" (Jn 13:1) "To the end" means to the last breath.  "To the end"  means accepting all the consequences of man's sin, taking it upon Himself.  This happened exactly as prophet Isiah affirmed: "it was our infirmities that he bore,... We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way;  But the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all" (Is 53:4-6).

The Man of Suffering is the revelation of that Love which "endures all things" (1 Cor 13:7), of that love which is the "greatest" (1 Cor 13:13).  It is the revelation not only that God is Love but also the One who "pours out love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit" (Rom 5:5).  

In the end, before Christ Crucified, the man who shares in redemption will have the advantage over the man who sets himself up as an unbending judge of God's actions in his own life as well as in that of all humanity. 

Thus we find ourselves at the center of the history of salvation.  The judgement of God becomes a judgment of man.  The divine realm and the human realm of this event meet, cross, and overlap.  … the difficulty and the challenge of understanding the meaning of Calvary is so great that God Himself wanted to warn the apostles of all the would have to happen between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. 

When the archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin of Nazareth the birth of the Son, revealing that His Reign would be unending (Lk 1:33), it was certainly difficult to foresee that those words augured such a future;  that the Reign of God in the world would come about at such a cost;  that from that moment the history of  the salvation of all humanity would have to follow such a path. 

The event of Calvary is a historical fact.  Nevertheless, it is not  limited in time and space.  It goes back into the past, to the beginning, and opens toward the future until the end of history.   It encompasses all places and times and all of mankind.  

Christ is the expectation and simultaneously the fulfillment.  "There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:12)

Christianity is a religion of salvation - a soteriological religion, to use the theological term.  Christian soteriology focuses on the Paschal Mystery.  In order to hope for salvation from God, man must stop beneath Christ's Cross.  Then... in front of the empty tomb and listen, like the women of Jerusalem: "he is not here, for he has been raised" (Mt 28:6).  Contained within the Cross and the Resurrection is the certainty that God saves man, that He saves him through Christ, through His Cross and His Resurrection. 

What Does "To Save" Mean?
...What does it mean "to save"?  What is this "salvation" which, as you say, is at the heart of Christianity? 

To save means to liberate from evil.

This does not refer onto social evils… to disease, catastrophes... and everything that has been considered a disaster in the history of humanity. 

To save means to liberate from radical, ultimate evil.  Death itself is no longer that kind of evil, if followed by the Resurrection.  And the Resurrection comes about through the work of Christ.  Through the work of the Redeemer, death ceases to be an ultimate evil; it becomes subject to the power of life. 

The world does not have such power.  … does not have the power to liberate man from death.  And therefore the world cannot be a source of salvation for man.  Only God saves, and He saves the whole of humanity in Christ.  The very name Jesus, Jeshua ("God who saves"), bespeaks this salvation.  ... "Was it not I, the Lord, besides whom there is no other God? There is no just and saving God but me" (Is 45:21).

To save means to liberate from radical evil.  This evil is not only man's progressive decline with the passage of time and...death.  An even more radical evil is God's rejection of man, that is, eternal damnation as the consequence of man's rejection of God.

Damnation is the opposite of salvation.  Both are associated with the destiny of man to live eternally.  Both presuppose the immortality of the human being.  Temporal death cannot destroy man's destiny of eternal life. 

And what is this eternal life?  It is happiness that comes from union with God. Christ affirms:  "Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ" (Jn 17:3).  Union with God is realized in the vision of the Divine Being "face to face" (1 Cor 13:12), a vision called "beatific" because it carries with it the ultimate attainment of man's aspiration to truth.  … the vision of God "face to face" allows enjoyment of the absolute fullness of truth.  In this way man's aspiration to truth is ultimately satisfied. 

Salvation, however, is not reducible to this.  In knowing God "face to face", man encounters the absolute fullness of good. … What we are speaking of here is not union with the idea of good [platonic], but rather union with Good itself. God is this Good.  … Christ responded [to the young man]:  "Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone" (Mk 10:17-18). 

As the fullness of Good, God is the fullness of life. Life is in Him and from Him.  This is life that has no limits in time or space.  It is "eternal life," participation in the life of God Himself, which comes about in the eternal communion of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  … the Holy Trinity... invites us to receive that life.  In Jesus Christ man is called to such a participation and led toward it. 

Eternal Life is exactly this.  The Death of Christ gives life, because it allows believers to share in His Resurrection.  The Resurrection is the revelation of life. … [Lazarus story]:  "I am the Resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die" (Jn 11:21, 23-26)  

… we are called to participate in life, which has been revealed through the Resurrection of Christ. 

According to St. Matthew, this resurrection of the body is to be preceded by a judgment passed upon the works of charity, fulfilled or neglected.  As a result of this judgement, the just are destined to eternal life.  There is a destination to eternal damnation as well, which consists in the ultimate rejection of God, the ultimate break of the communion with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Here, it is not so much God who rejects man, but man who rejects God. 

...we can never forget that God "wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4).

Happiness springs from the knowledge of the truth, from the vision of God face to face, from sharing in His life.  This happiness is so profoundly a part of man's deepest aspiration that the words just cited above... seem fully justified... 

Christianity is a religion of salvation.  The salvation in question is that of the Cross and the Resurrection.  God, who desires that man "may live" (Ez 18:23), draws near to him through the death of His Son in order to reveal that life to which he is called in God Himself.  … Everyone... must stop before the Cross of Christ.

Will he be willing to accept the truth of the Paschal Mystery or not?  Will he have faith?

This Mystery of salvation is an event which has already taken place.  God has embraced all men by the Cross and the Resurrection of His Son...  the Paschal Mystery is by now grafted onto the history of humanity, onto the history of every individual. 

Christian soteriology is a soteriology of the fullness of life.  Not only is it a soteriology of the truth disclosed in Revelation, but at the same time it is also a soteriology of love... of Divine Love.

Love, above all, possesses a saving power.  … greater than that of mere knowledge of the truth: "So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor 13:13).  Salvation through love is, at the same time, a sharing in the fullness of truth, and also in the fullness of beauty.  All this is in God.    All these "treasures of life and of holiness: (Lit SH of Jesus) God has laid open to man in Jesus Christ.

The fact that Christianity is a religion of salvation is expressed in the sacramental life of the Church. Christ, who came "so that they might have life and have it more abundantly" (Jn 10:10) discloses for us the sources fo this lfie… through the Paschal Mystery of His death and Resurrection.  Linked … are Baptism, The Eucharist...The Sacrament of Reconciliation.

The fact that Christianity is a religion of salvation is also expressed in worship... 

The liturgy of the Eastern Church is fundamentally centered on the Resurrection.
The Western Church, while maintaining the primacy of the Resurrection, has gone further in the direction of the Passion.  The veneration of Christ's Cross has shaped the history of Christian piety and has inspired the greatest saints … 

There is no Christian holiness without devotion to the Passion, just as there is no holiness without the centrality of the Paschal Mystery. 

The Eastern Church attributes great importance of the Feast of the Transfiguration.  .. the Saints of the Catholic Church often received the stigmata…  Thus over the span of two thousand years, there has come about this great synthesis of life and of holiness, of which Christ is always the center. 

For all its orientation toward eternal life, toward that happiness which is found in God Himself, Christianity, and especially Western Christianity, never became a religion indifferent to the world.  It has always been open to the world, to its questions, to its anxieties, to its hopes.  …particular expression in the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World,  Gaudium et Spes…  John XXIII.

Aggiornamento (updating) does not only refer to the renewal of the Church; nor only to the unification of Christians, "that the world may believe" (Jn 17:21).  It is also, and above all, God's saving activity on behalf of the world; saving activity centered on this world, a world which is passing away, but which is constantly oriented toward eternity, toward the fullness of life. … The Church is thus confirmed in all aspects of human life, temporal life.  The Church is the Body of Christ, a living body which gives life to everything.