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What’s wrong with suffering?
This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Cross. It is a feast that speaks to us about God’s love in a somewhat perplexing way: Jesus’ suffering on the Cross. We know that there is a mysterious relationship between love and suffering; a relationship that Frank Baum expressed in a beautiful way in the dialogue between the Tin Woodman and the Wizard of Oz:
How about my heart?” asked the Tin Woodman.
“Why, as for that,” answered Oz, “I think you are wrong to want a heart. It makes most people unhappy. If you only knew it, you are in luck not to have a heart.”
“That must be a matter of opinion,” said the Tin Woodman. “For my part, I will bear all the unhappiness without a murmur, if you will give me the heart.”
Like the Tin Woodman, we need a heart to love, but that makes us vulnerable to suffering. Is it worth it to love even if we will suffer? This question hits the human heart whenever we suffer or see others suffering. In answer God gave his own response having his Son Jesus to embrace suffering and death on the cross. In this way God’s love was made present in suffering, encouraging us and giving us new strength.
The cross of Christ is the supreme sign of God’s love for every man and woman, the superabundant response to every person’s need for love. At times of trouble, when our families have to face pain and adversity, let us look to Christ’s cross. There we can find the courage and strength to press on (Benedict XVI, April 6, 2012).
The Paschal Mystery is not only the Cross, but also the resurrection. The real power of love and the cross is to transform. In spiritual counseling I often have this conversation: forgiveness is not to cancel the memories, but to transform them. Jesus’ resurrection didn’t cancel the nail marks, but transformed them from signs of suffering and death into marks of his love.
To forgive is not to ignore, but to transform. God must enter into this world in order to set against the ocean of injustice a larger ocean of goodness and of love. And this is the event of the Cross: from that moment, against the ocean of evil, there exists a river that is boundless, and so ever mightier than all the injustices of the world, a river of goodness, truth, and love. Thus God forgives, coming into the world and transforming it so that there may be a real strength, a river of goodness wider than all the evil that could ever exist (Benedict XVI, July 24, 2009).
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