||Father Jess Anthony Testa,
A Roman Catholic Priest at the Sacred Heart Church in Lombard, Illinois, was born and
raised in Chicago, attended Northwestern University and later John Marshall Law School. He
entered the seminary for late vocations in 1984 and received his M.Div. from Sacred Heart
School of Theology, in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, in 1988. Later that year he was ordained
to the priesthood. He is currently with the diocese of Joliet, Illinois.
MEANING OF SUFFERING
We know that there is suffering in the world, this
cannot be denied. The question always seems to arise, "How do we reconcile all the
suffering in the world with a God of love?" There is NO satisfactory answer
that will satisfy ALL people. In all humility I must admit this is a feeble attempt to
try. First we must start with some givens and then work from there. The givens,(1) God did
not intend for us this suffering. We were created to enjoy everlasting happiness with Him
for all eternity. (2) Suffering entered the world as a result of sin...original sin. (3)
If we live long enough, ALL people will have a cross at some point in their life. An
illness of a loved one or oneself, death of a loved one, etc. There is NO escape from the
cross. (4) Any cross that may come our way, God will send us the graces to endure. He will
never send us more than He thinks we can handle. With those four things as a given we can
Suffering has always
puzzled human beings. It is especially difficult to understand why even good people
suffer. The first encounter we have of this is JOB in the Old Testament. Job was a good man yet he suffered. It was Jewish belief that if a person
was evil then God punished them here on earth. If a person was good he was
rewarded-health, wealth etc. Job was a good man and yet suffering came to him. His friends
believed that he had done something wrong to offend God. Job knew he didn't. He did not
understand his misfortune but accepted it as the will of God. (read the book of Job). The
same mentality existed at the time of Jesus. The New Testament is loaded with
people suffering illness. At one point His Apostles even asked Jesus what did this man do
that he should be stricken.
We suffer on account of the existence of evil. Evil
is a distortion of good. So, now we know why the existence of suffering.. evil. That does
not mean that God punishes us for something we did wrong here. A person does not go blind
because they sinned, as an example. (which was the view of many people in Scripture)
How is one to cope with suffering? As stated above
NO ONE escapes the cross. It is what we do with it that will either crush us or help us to
grow. We know of the existence of God but suffering can cloud our wisdom and vision
at times. As a result of suffering some may deny the existence of God or say God does not
love me (false). Pope John Paul II has spoken of redemptive suffering, ( putting that
suffering to good work for ourselves). We are speaking here of faith-STRONG FAITH.
Years ago I saw a television interview with Mrs.
Rose Kennedy. It was mentioned to her that she had two sons assassinated, a son killed in
a plane crash, a daughter killed in a plane crash, a daughter born retarded. She was asked
how she was able to endure all this. Her answer, MY FAITH IN GOD. She then went on to say
that whatever crosses God may send her, He will always send her the graces to cope with
them. I thought that was a tremendous witness to faith.
I remember speaking to a man, who was blind, some
years ago. There were six children in his family and he was the only one born blind. He
said to me, " I guess God figured I could handle it better than my brothers or
sisters". Again another strong witness to faith..
As a priest I have had
many people come to me and ask me why about suffering in their family-an illness,
death etc. I cannot give them an answer that will satisfy them-this I know. I tell them
pray and ask God for the graces to cope with this. Jesus tells us-Ask and you shall
receive, seek and you shall find, knock and it shall be
opened to you. WE must ask God for His help. I also remind them of Jesus own
suffering. In the agony in the garden, Jesus DID NOT want to suffer and die.
YET, He did not seek His will but the will of the
Father, "Father let this cup pass from me BUT not my will but your will be
done". That is how our prayer should end.
If one truly believes, loves, and trust God then
suffering should not be seen as an enemy but a friend, not something to fear but something
to embrace. Please do not misunderstand this statement. It does not mean we should go out
and actively seek pain and suffering. What it does mean is that we should embrace it (as
Jesus did) not as our will but as the will of God. Crosses in life are not meant to
crush you. Jesus will be there to help you carry your cross-if only you ask. I suggest
reading the poem FOOTPRINTS. It is very good. May God bless you and may all your troubles
in life be minimal.
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