“Can we sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory?” asked James and John of Jesus. “Can you drink the cup that I must drink…?” was Jesus’ response to his success-seeking disciples. To live is to taste the cup of inevitable pain and suffering. There’s no escaping it.
In “Life’s Great Questions” Jean Vanier offers this: “There are some causes of suffering that we have little control over. People fall sick, accidents happen, natural disasters wreak havoc. Why is it that one person has cancer, and another does not?… Why is there such a thing as an Ebola virus? There is no answer to these questions. We are part of nature, subject to its laws and movement. Although it is always good to ask why, sometimes we must accept that we cannot fully understand.”
Two disciples had asked Jesus about the chances of promotion. While the question displayed the disciples’ misunderstanding of Jesus’ message, it’s a cautionary reminder of how easy it is for the church to have wrong priorities. Jesus declines to grant their desires and indicates that his mission is to serve humankind by confronting suffering and death on the cross.
He offers us the Christian perspective on suffering. In his dying on the cross and rising from the dead, we are assured that the terrible things that happen in life are not the final word: Jesus takes us through and beyond them. We are like camels being drawn through the eyes of needles by the God who so loved the world that he sent his only son that we would have eternal life.
New Zealand theologian Penny Jamieson points this out when she says: “The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead was the public demonstration that he had defeated the forces of evil and conquered death itself, the end result of evil. The answer to the problem of suffering is not an idea but a person… God’s answer is not just to give us words, but to give us Jesus.”
The kind of hope given to believers by God was not invented by human beings. It isn’t just a wish invented by those who cannot face reality; it’s the conviction of those who believe God is to be trusted even in the worst of times.
Fr. QQ 19/10/18