ATTENDED A MOST meaningful Tribute to Pope John Paul II yesterday afternoon. Eight excellent talks by three priests and six lay professionals on JPII's life, courage, vision, and teachings.
Fr W. explained how Pope Benedict XVI and JPII are so alike in their ideologies and visions for the Church. Then the MC, a lawyer, summarized (in the words of another) the life and contributions of JPII -- how he had lost mother, brother and father while still very young; and how as pope, he had spoken out against communism, feminism, relativism, materialism, racism and unrestrained capitalism; and affirmed Catholic teachings on life, opposing abortion, contraception, capital punishment, embryonic stem-cell research, human cloning, euthanasia and war.
A doctor and his lawyer wife talked about JPII's Familiaris Consortia: holy matrimony and how love is more about giving than receiving. Another doctor spoke about JPII's Theology of the Body. V. & V. spoke about the storms that have been buffeting the Church since times immemorial. Fr F. spoke about the redemptive value of suffering. Fr M. gave a hilarious talk about four World Youth Days (instituted by JPII) that he had attended with Singaporean youths. Finally, Fr D. rounded up the talk with theological reasons against euthanasia.
"... Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?" -- Job 2:10
"Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." -- Luke 14: 27
ONE THING that struck me after the session was that all those who advocated a "culture of death", e.g. abortion, contraception, embryonic stem-cell research and euthanasia, has one basic assumption -- that life is NOT worth living when it's filled with suffering. So, cutting off lifelines and other immoral acts seem justified the moment we or our loved ones are suffering intensely.
The Catholic Church, on the other hand, advocated a "culture of life" based on this assumption -- that life IS worth living even when it's filled with suffering. In fact, it believes that suffering can be endured with God's grace and can even be redemptive.
Redemptive Suffering: "Offering it Up" (caution: a traditionalist Catholic site) explains this concept very well: "In Hinduism, suffering is seen as the result of karmic debt owed from a prior incarnation; we suffer through, building up "good karma" to balance out what is, ultimately, our own personal fault.
"To Buddhists, life is suffering because we desire; this desire must be extinguished by walking the Eightfold Noble Path of right belief, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right thought, and right meditation.
"In Islam, suffering is seen as the result of Allah's positive will ("Verily We have created man into toil and struggle." -- Qu'ran 90:4).
"In Rabbinical Judaism, suffering is seen as everything from senseless to positively willed by God to (for some self-described "Torah-true" Jews) a result of Jewish disobedience.
"For some brands of Protestantism, suffering is always the result of personal sin ("You're sick? You shouldn't have been playing cards..."), and God wants only "health and wealth" for His people as long as they "believe" (and "plant seeds" by sending a "love gift" to some televangelist).
"In orthodox Christianity, suffering has its ultimate origins in the human will, the abuse of which, through the sin of Adam, caused the rift between God and man that only Christ can reconcile. Suffering's proximate causes are the effects of Natural Law stemming from our own actions or the actions of others (even going back through the generations), the work of demons, and God's pulling back His mantle of protection, sometimes for obvious reasons, such as punishment, sometimes for inscrutable reasons. In any case, suffering is never positively willed by God, but is allowed for our benefit in the same way a father will allow a child to suffer the consequences of his own actions so that the child will grow and learn to listen to his father, or perhaps in the same way that father might allow his child to "suffer through" piano lessons so that, someday, he will be a great pianist. We may not understand God's reasons for allowing our particular suffering, but we must always trust that we can endure with His grace, and that there is reason for it, whether it is for our correction, purification, penance, to help us realize how radically dependent we are on Him, or whether it is for His appeasement.
"Why do we do this? Because we are exhorted to "put on Christ" and to imitate Him, our High Priest and Spotless Victim, so that we might partake of the divine nature. In order to redeem us, Our Lord took on flesh and gave all to the Father; in order to be Christ-like, we, too, must take up our cross, accept suffering, and strive to offer Him all."
(See also Papa Familias's thoughts on suffering and Ordinary, Proportionate, Morally Obligatory - The Loyola Marymount-Terri Schiavo Connection.)