Our Christian faith views suffering as an intrinsic part of the human experience due to the existence of sin and brokenness in the world.
Nonetheless, it also holds a distinct perspective on suffering, recognizing that it can have a redemptive purpose in one’s life.
We Christians believe Jesus Christ underwent immense suffering, including physical torture, rejection, and death on the cross.
Through his suffering and death, they believe Jesus atoned for humanity’s sins and paved the way to eternal life.
Moreover, we believe that suffering can help one develop faith and foster a deeper relationship with God. It can also instill empathy and compassion towards others who are undergoing hardship.
Christians are called to share one another’s burdens and console those who are suffering, following the example of Jesus Christ.
Suffering is not the final chapter.
Christ’s resurrection engenders hope and pledges that one day all suffering and pain will be vanquished.
During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II addressed illness on numerous occasions, providing solace and guidance to those who were struggling with physical and emotional distress.
In a particularly poignant homily delivered during a Mass for the sick in 2004, the Pope reminded those present that illness can serve as a powerful reminder of our dependence on God and our interconnectedness as human beings.
He acknowledged while illness can elicit feelings of isolation and hopelessness, it can also offer opportunities for spiritual growth and a deeper understanding of God’s love.
The Pope stressed the significance of caring for the sick and vulnerable, not only as a way of serving Christ, but also as a means of strengthening the human community.
He implored all those in attendance to extend love, compassion, and practical support to those who were suffering.
Throughout his homily, Pope John Paul II emphasized the inherent dignity of every person, even in the midst of illness and adversity.
He encouraged those present to view themselves as members of a unified body, connected through Christ and bound together by love.
Finally, the Pope conveyed that illness does not represent the end of the journey.
He spoke of the hope and joy that arise from the resurrection of Christ and urged those who were suffering to hold fast to this hope, knowing that their pain and struggles would ultimately be transformed into glory.
In his message during the First Annual World Day of the Sick which he instituted during his pontificate in October 1992, Pope John Paul II,now Saint Pope John Paul II, said we always see the sick and suffering, very sad images of individuals and whole peoples who, lacerated by war and conflicts, succumb under the weight of easily avoidable calamities.
It is difficult to turn our gaze from the imploring faces of so many human beings, especially children, reduced to a shell of their former selves by hardships of every kind in which they are caught up against their will because of selfishness and violence.
We cannot forget either all those who at health-care facilities — hospitals, clinics, leprosariums, centers for the disabled, nursing homes — or in their own dwellings undergo the calvary of sufferings which are often neglected, not always suitably relieved, and sometimes even aggravated by a lack of adequate support, the Holy Father added.
According to the Holy Father, illness, which in everyday experience is perceived as a frustration of the natural life force, for believers becomes an appeal to “read” the new, difficult situation in the perspective which is proper to faith.
He then asked difficult questions, like, how can we discover in the moment of trial the constructive contribution of pain?
How can we give meaning and value to the anguish, unease, and physical and psychic ills accompanying our mortal condition?
What justification can we find for the decline of old age and the final goal of death, which, in spite of all scientific and technological progress, inexorably remains?
For the Holy Father, satisfactory answers can only be found in Christ, the incarnate Word, Redeemer of mankind, and victor over death.
In his Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris, in the light of Christ’s death and resurrection, illness no longer appears as an exclusively negative event; rather, it is seen as a “visit by God,” an opportunity “to release love, in order to neighbor to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a civilization of love.”
Those of us who are sick and/or suffering, through faith, can be transfigured as the apostles were in the gospel tomorrow, the Second Sunday of Lent.
Let our hearts be grateful for that grace.