Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Finding Meaning in Human Suffering (From A Layman's Point Of View)

Photo retrieved from http://www.mallinista.com/2011/04/tiene-sentido-mi-sufrimiento.html

A dear family friend just died after losing a a 5 month fight with lung cancer. He suffered his illness quietly with no complaint whatsoever. For this, God gave him a peaceful passing to eternal life. 

I too am at a low point in my life, having been recently dismissed from my job for something that is unrelated to my duties and responsibilities.  It is an unfair decision and my lawyer will file a motion for reconsideration.  Meanwhile, life will be a bit hard for me and my family while I am waiting for justice to be served. 

And as if these weren't enough, many harassment came one after another this past week that I find myself meditating about the deeper meaning of suffering...

My thoughts on human suffering...

When I speak of human suffering, I don't refer only to the physical but  emotional and mental suffering as well, all of which I believe people suffer from all the time, but in varying degrees of severity. It may be as trivial as waking up with a headache or something really serious like being ill and dying.  It could be an anxious feeling over life's problems or distress over a life-changing situation. Whatever causes us pain and difficulties, whether physical or emotional, makes us suffer.

Why suffer?

Today's contemporary culture views suffering as meaningless and something to be avoided at all cost.  Proponents of euthanasia, abortion, physician assisted suicide talk about the right to human dignity and compassion to justify their intention to end present—or prevent future —suffering. Each method is perceived to be a "compassionate choice"...ending life means an end to suffering.  

Which brings me to my next question what is it in suffering that people are so afraid of?   

Let us not be fooled...the campaign to eliminate suffering does not necessarily spring from authentic compassion for people who are in pain or suffering. Is it compassion that drives people to seek euthanasia, abortion, or physician-assisted suicide? Or is it that these people who advocate this culture of death are really afraid of the fact that to care for an ill and aged parent...to bring up an unwanted child...to spend for treatment for the terminally ill...all these can make life difficult...and as a consequence, they suffer too.  

The Christian approach to suffering

In contrast to its secular counterpart, the classic Christian understanding of compassion is that  “while evil can cause forms of suffering, suffering is not viewed as an evil in and of itself”. That there is meaning in suffering. While acknowledging that suffering is not the equivalent of evil, Christian compassion calls us to “suffer with” those who are suffering, using Christ as our model, ever mindful of the redemptive element in suffering. Authentic compassion does not eliminate the sufferer as the means to alleviating suffering itself. The Christian moral tradition has always called us toward compassion for the sick, the unborn, the aged and the dying. To suffer is to share the cross of Christ. Suffering causes us to turn to God and purifies us from sin. Our suffering furthers our growth in holiness which is the aim of Catholic life. 

A true Christian opens his mind and heart to accept everything that God allows to happen to him because trite as it may sound...it is always true that things happen for a reason.  Take me for example, when bad things happen, my Catholic faith never fails me...it is during times of suffering that I feel most close to God.  It is ironic that during good times, my relationship with God takes a downturn. I am quite ashamed that after so many chances I still have not establish a strong relationship with God.  And God has never given up on me.  Once more, He sends me His invitation and I accept. With this latest trial in my life, it is time to sit up, pay attention and listen to God. With the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit we can bear all things.

Picture retrieved from http://www.discerninghearts.com/?page_id=4534

O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten, guide, strengthen and console me. Tell me what I ought to do and command me to do it. I promise to be submissive in everything that You permit to happen to me, only show me what is Your will.
This prayer is part of A Secret of Sanctity by Cardinal Mercier in which he said plainly:
"I am going to reveal to you a secret of sanctity and happiness. If every day during five minutes, you will keep your imagination quiet, shut your eyes to all things of sense, and close your ears to all the sounds of earth, so as to be able to withdraw into the sanctuary of your baptized soul, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, speaking there to that Holy Spirit saying: "O Holy Spirit, Soul of my soul …" If you do this, your life will pass happily and serenely. Consolation will abound even in the midst of troubles. Grace will be given in proportion to the trial as well as strength to bear it, bringing you to the gates of Paradise full of merit. The submission to the Holy Spirit is the Secret of Sanctity."

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