Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pope Benedict on current issues

I'm reading a talk that the pope gave to parish priests in Italy last month. He answered several questions that they put to him. I'm very impressed at his pastoral response to these issues, including divorce and remarriage. Toward the beginning of the talk he said, "I share with you these questions, these queries. I also suffer. However, let us on the one hand suffer all together for these problems, and let us also suffer in transforming the problems. For suffering itself is the way to transformation, and without suffering nothing is transformed." (My italics)

This thought really struck me: let us also suffer in transforming the problems.
He's reminding us that difficult problems don't have easy solutions. Sometimes we can't just solve a problem; we have to suffer through the problem until we finally reach a solution. Take something like illness. If a person gets something serious like cancer, they can get treated for it and often recover. But the process causes suffering. Chemo can cause nausea, hair loss, and many other uncomfortable side effects. The anxiety that goes along with it causes the person to suffer mental distress.
Or take problems in family relationships. A parent often has to suffer through the problem of a wayward child. Or a spouse has to suffer through the problem of alcoholism, drug addiction or some other painful situations that afflict their spouse.
The usual way God works with us is to bring fruit out of our troubles by helping us suffer through the problem. God usually doesn't take it all away miraculously; that would be the "cheap grace" that Bonhoeffer spoke of. The "expensive grace" is the one that Jesus gives us to suffer through something. But the good news is that we don't have to do it alone--he's with us all through it.

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