The community of suffering

Good Friday and Easter Sunday are occasions when I become particularly aware of the Church as a community. We come together in front of the mystery of suffering, and the mystery of resurrection. Community carries the meaning of a diversity coming together as one. But it is interesting to consider how this unity is founded on the natural condition of the human race.

First, of course, we are all blood relations. The geneticists tell us that we share the same maternal and paternal inheritance. It is true that their “Adam and Eve” did not live at the same time, but that we are all relations through common ancestry is well established.

We need to go back to Aristotle to see explicit recognition of ourselves as social animals. We are necessarily interdependent, and we need to arrange our affairs in accordance with that if we are to flourish. Indeed we could derive this conclusion from the social commandments, which are in effect a list of instructions on what to avoid in order to live together fruitfully.

This is a deep point of contact for the human race; it shares a broad view not only that there is right and wrong, but also there is a commonality about what constitutes right and wrong. This may not always be apparent. But the sceptical philosophers who set out to deny this – from Hume to Ayer – show sub-cutaneous acceptance in the way they live their own lives. And if we disagree in some instances about our moral conclusions, we are still able to discuss them constructively because we recognise each other’s moral insights.

Our instincts here are supported by inherited characteristics. One of the strongest moral influences on us arises from the culture in which we live. We do not need deep insight to see how our own views have been influenced – by no means always for the best – over a period of time. We must accept that our brains send us warning signals when we go against the crowd. While these signals are broadly necessary for the stability of a society, their arationality requires our rational confirmation or rejection.

Our tendency towards altruism normally provides an important benefit, which is why it has developed through evolution. It is also arational, and so requires our conscious confirmation. But it does in turn lead us to an important human characteristic: theory of mind.

Theory of mind is quite simply our apparent ability to interpret what is going on in other persons’ minds. “Apparent” because it is fallible, but useful as a working hypothesis. Without it, empathy would be impossible and the “golden rule” of do-as-you-would-be-done-by would be nullified. We know that our response to other people’s feelings and actions may be mirrored in our brains. And a recent study shows the wide range of subtle facial expressions which can be accurately recognised.

So, if all the hard evidence shows the unity derived from our creation through the image and likeness of God, how do we understand this in terms of the Church? The answer is wonderful. Paul speaks to us of the mystical body of the Church. It has a variety of members but, like a human body, every member is needed by the whole. And the unity is cemented by love. The briefest reading of his account both inspires and depresses, for few of us live up to it. But Paul has more to say, elsewhere.

“And I live, now not I; but Christ lives in me.” – our unity lies in our real identity in Christ. And I shudder because I doubt how well the outside world sees that in me. He tells us that his sufferings fill up “those things that are wanting in the sufferings of Christ.” That is a strange statement. But the message is clear: it tells us that our suffering has now become part of the redemption. Not a single pang is wasted, not a single pang is without meaning. The mystery of suffering has foxed many people, but the real mystery lies in how our personal suffering and Christ’s suffering is one entity common to us all. We are there on the cross too. That is the final identity we share.

I recall vividly the occasion when I realised this. I was attending a Requiem Mass for the young wife of a friend of mine. I was trying to understand the meaning of this cruel tragedy. Then, at the Elevation, I saw it. Like so many mysterious things, sometimes only poetry can explain an understanding, and so I wrote this to capture the moment. If you are not sure who is speaking: me, or the husband, or Christ, you are reading it aright.

This is my body, the high priest said,
And my blood, as he proffered the wine;
And I trembled in front of the chalice
For I saw the body was mine.

I had thought the price of my passion
Had satisfied sin and had won,
But the bread on the table was broken
With suffering still to be done.

I had known the scourge and the nailing
I had known the rack of the tree;
And I saw them again in the chalice
Which the high priest offered to me.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Catholic Herald columns, Philosophy, Spirituality and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to The community of suffering

  1. Ann says:

    Sometimes I wonder why we focus so much on suffering. Christ is risen, he no longer suffers for our sins, we on the other hand are to learn how to live through our suffering, and knowing that Jesus suffered and died for our sins, he also rose. I think that means we must rise also in a way, to take our suffering, give it to God and live. I think its John (could have this wrong) that says we can now have eternal life here on earth….I’m still working out what he meant.
    Happy Easter All.

  2. Vincent says:

    I still find difficulties here. I have no problems in accepting the view that our suffering, accepted as Christians, contributes to the redemption — and I find the thought consoling. But that’s all small beer compared to the suffering throughout the world — throughout time. And while a portion of that is the outcome of folly and wickedness, there is plenty of suffering for innocent people. My question is simple: why?

  3. Nektarios says:

    Perhaps Vincent, and in same measure to Ann, a prayerful reading of Romans 8 may answer some or all your questions on suffering.
    Don’t skip the first part for without it, like Vincent one is left with the question why; One will not understand much of what follows in verses 11-18.
    The reality of suffering in this world is a fact. Here in these verse and many others, we see the whys and wherefores of suffering. What if anything as Christians we can do about it, if it be we, or others are suffering.
    I think the questions you have both posted and other related questions on suffering not written on the blog here are answered
    in Romans chapter 8.

  4. johnbunting says:

    May I suggest that we pray for Fr Frans van der Lugt, the Jesuit priest who was killed last week in Syria.
    R.I.P.

  5. Ann says:

    Nektarios : Thanks for your suggestion, although Romans 8 speaks about Life Through the Spirit, did doesn’t explain why God would allow suffering. Personally I don’t think God allows suffering, we create all the suffering in our world when we don’t forgive each other, accept each other, and therefore we can’t or find it hard to love one another.I’m no expert on scripture, but Christ forgave all, accepted and loved everyone imo.

    • Nektarios says:

      Ann
      I remember a minister who was quite a well known Scottish bible expositor, when it came to your question on suffering said, “always remember to give the devil his due.”
      It was the devil that brought suffering into this world, that father of lies, who convinced Eve and Adam to be disobedient. The result for man was cataclysmic. He suffered physically and spiritually.
      Christ came, not to condemn the world, but that the world should be saved.

      • Ann says:

        The church does not believe in dualism yet we say the devil works his ways by tempting us, why do we say its the devils way rather than man just preferring himself and his ways over Gods way?

      • milliganp says:

        Thank you, Nektarios. I will ponder rather than comment.

      • milliganp says:

        Ann, as I understand it, the existence of temptation is not the same as dualism. Dualists tend to believe that God is perfect and creation imperfect, the creation of a lesser, fallen, “god”; whereas the church teaches that creation is the direct work of God and thus intrinsically good.

  6. Ignatius says:

    Ann,
    To get anywhere I guess we would have to think hard about what we mean by ‘suffering’ Much of the suffering one sees is to do with the mortality of the body – illness, infirmity etc. God certainly allows that kind of suffering for it is implicit in the mortality we inhabit, man is born to suffer and die is he not? God does not intervene either, as far as we can see, in natural disasters. Political suffering, when man destroys himself or his neighbour in battle for power or resources for example is more simply attributable to what lies within the human heart as you say. We do understand also that God did not spare his own son from great suffering and so have to conclude that God is a) not afraid of suffering but brings it to a purpose largely unseen. b) God is quite capable of inflicting suffering on people to bring about his own ends- a glance through most books of the bible will attest to this, particularly the Pentateuch and the book of Revelations. Its a knotty issue.

  7. Ignatius says:

    PS An here is a good link to read on suffering: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-james-martin-sj/lessons-of-good-friday-_b_5171156.html not sure if it will work here so you may have to paste it to your browser.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Quentin.
      Your Poem above touched me as before when you told it to us.
      I see all the continuing suffering Church in those words.Especially the Martyrs who gave their life in the Reformation for their faith in Holy Mother Church
      Lest we Forget. For without them we most probably would not have a Church today or for those faithful people our ancestors who continued to place their trust in the Lord.
      Sometimes I think we are prepared to follow the crowd for peace-but that is not the peace that Jesus came to teach or died for!.

  8. Advocatus Diaboli says:

    I am but a simple soul but wonder why Christians all get into a tizzy about their God creating a world in which all sorts of people (and particularly people who are least able to bear it) are showered with suffering they can neither avoid nor alleviate. After all he has got form.
    He started the whole process, you tell me, by imposing punishment on every manjack from the moment of conception, for the sin of someone else. This is a punishment so severe that it apparently merits the torture chamber forever. That’s not just for the 13 billion years since the universe was created — even 13 billion squared would not begin to touch on eternity.
    Now I would not want to offend people by saying that this is the behaviour of an ogre. But I am not surprised by him allowing the odd tsunami and the odd plague. He’s just keeping his hand in.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Advocatus Diaboli
      Hence Heaven for all Eternity!
      The Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand. Spiritually which over powers the Hell of this world!!
      Try it sometime!

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      St, Joseph, are you answering my comment? Or just filling space?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Advocatus Diaboli.
        Just a little spiritual education which I can see you are non the wiser.
        Yes filling a space if you like to call it, in you heart whereby there is plenty to fill!

    • Nektarios says:

      AD
      Ah, here you are posing questions which you well know (in part) the answers to, hence you would not have asked them. Hmm?

      • Advocatus Diaboli says:

        Is it, or is it not true, that you teach that every human being is born into a state of sin for which he is not personally responsible. And that if he dies in that state he spends eternity in hell? It’s really quite a simple question — to which the answer is either yes or no.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Reading deeper into Quentins poem.
        Jesus asked His followers ‘Can you drink the Cup that I am going to drink???
        There are lots of food for thought.in that question.

        We may drink the Cup but is our blood in that Cup sharing what Jesus drank?.Do we see our blood in that Cup in His suffering.?
        If we do then we can really be called His followers.

    • milliganp says:

      AD, what we do is find ourselves in a world of extremes and try to understand it. The revelation of the Bible helps us. The people of Israel found themselves in good times and bad and, trying to rationalse it, developed an understanding of their relationship with God. The book of Job, in particular, helped them understand what they found inexplicable, that good and bad can both happen to a good man. So what happens to us in this word is not judgement, it’s circumstance.
      Because we’re human, God has tried to expalin things to use in human terms. Since bible fundamentalist beleive the world is only 6,500 years old, perhaps eternity is only 6.500 years. Perhaps hell is not eternal flames but the eternal realisation we could have done better. I have seen what guilt does to human beings on earh, hell can’t be much worse.

  9. Geordie says:

    AD

    No

    • John L says:

      AD – I agree with Geordie – the simple answer to your simple question is “No”.
      And I can’t really believe that someone of your intelligence equates eternity with time everlasting.

    • Advocatus Diaboli says:

      Thanks for your replies. They are a little brief for analysis. So perhaps you would be kind enough to take it a little further.
      1. Is every human being born into a state of sin?
      2. Is he personally responsible for being in that state?
      3. if he dies in that state of sin, does he spend eternity in Hell?
      Tell me where I have gone wrong please. The Council of Florence does not seem to agree with you: ” “But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.”

      John L. it’s not a matter of intelligence but a matter of picking up a dictionary.

      St Joseph, there is nothing in the question you cite which addresses the points above. But I notice in passing that we may do no more than hope for God’s indulgence towards infants. I would have thought that it required justice rather than indulgence given that they didn’t ask to be born, still less to be saddled with the guilt of a sin they did not commit. If I put you into prison to pay for a crime committed by your grandfather, I think you would be miffed.

      • St.Joseph says:

        AD.
        All I can say to that is. We know the rule of Baptism, so why would one who believes in it making us a child of God refuse it. It is necessary to get married in Church, so what is the problem!!
        Either one is a Christian or not. If one believes then one must prove it.
        Argument for argument sake..

      • milliganp says:

        AD, I’m sure you absolutely love the Catechism, because far more people who don’t know what they are talking about use it to justify their position rather than people who know what they are talking about use it to illustrate their position.
        What we know is that Gos is loving, just compassionate and merciful. We also know that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross was sufficient for all the sins of humanity.
        All these attributes lead us to believe that no one will suffer without it being their own responsibility. Everthing else is conjecture from the imperfect vison of fallen creatures – which we all are.
        During the crucifixion Christ cried out “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do”. Perhaps that is the niversal human condition and, in the agony in the garden, Christ fully entered our state.

      • John L says:

        AD.
        I didn’t suggest a problem with dictionaries – The space/time continuum is God’s creation. It is ludicrous to suggest that God’s “environment” is in any way limited by time, His own creation. We use “eternity” as a concept of time going on for ever (wouldn’t even Heaven become boring after the first million years?) because being enclosed by God in a space/time continuum during life, we lack the language to adequately discuss the relationship of the soul with God after death. Eternity is God’s true and only “environment”, the great NOW, and we enter it in a state of friendship or enmity with God. Even enmity, He is very inclined to forgive.
        This lack of an adequate language is evident among the councils of the Church, and was certainly a problem for the writer(s) of Genesis. Speaking for myself, all I can say is that I have an inherent tendency to ignore / disobey / slight God and life is an unending battle to overcome this. Without God’s help I can’t overcome it.
        Does “original sin” exist solely in the pre-disposition or in a failure to address the problem?
        If it isn’t my fault, whose is it?

      • RAHNER says:

        “If it isn’t my fault, whose is it?”

        Is a person born blind responsible for their blindness??

      • John L says:

        Rahner. No, but his / her response to the situation for good or ill may affect a relationship with God. It is a hard saying, and one I find hard to cope with myself, that suffering is an opportunity. Is this not the gist of our discussion?

  10. Ann says:

    AD.
    I would say yes, but we are baptised into Christ which washes away the original sin of Adam, but doesn’t completely wash away the concupiscence we are told we can never overcome without Gods help. So if someone is in a state of mortal sin, they could go to hell if they haven’t repented while on earth. But I’m still working on understanding God wanting a blood sacrifice from his son in order to pay a debt. To me God is of love, even Jesus said he wished mercy not sacrifice, but his father still wanted an obedient son and the violate death of his son, because of what adam did. Not everyone is a catholic, but we can see that many people of other faiths and none are very good people, so God couldn’t possibly send them to hell.

    • milliganp says:

      I may be drifting into heresy, but this is how I reconcile Christ’s death being necessary.
      Firstly Judaism had developed out of a world of religions based on blood sacrifices, including human. The pagan sacrifices were appeasement of capricious gods. Judaism developed a practice where animal sacrifices were about atonement, not appeasement and the animal substituted for the human. There was a human element of sacrifice in providing the animal for sacrifice. However if we follow the themes of the psalms and prophets we learn that God favours a change of heart’ “let you hearts be broken, not your garments torn”, “my sacrifice a contrite spirit” etc.
      Secondly in the sacrifice of personal wealth, there was also the dimension of giving back to God that which was God’s.
      Finally humans suffer death, the limit placed on humanity as a punishment for sin.
      So Christ fulfils the type of sacrificial victim, Christ returns to God that which is God’s, Christ has his heart pierced for our sins and Christ passes through death. In each of these Christ offers us an example of how humanity can become justified in the sight of God. It is in imitation of this that human suffering links us to Christ.

    • Nektarios says:

      Ann
      To answer your question why God required a blood sacrifice of His Son….
      Prior to this in Israel, it was the sacrifice of a Bullocks or a lamb without blemish. The reason it was necessary was to let a thrice holy God forgive the sins of the people.
      The other reason it was necessary was becase the life of human beings is in the blood.
      The bullock (male) and a lamb without blemish were types looking forward to Jesus – the spotless lamb of God, who was so named because He would deliver His people from their sins, for it is against God we have sinned. Laying down His life for us all, no one can now say they cannot be forgiven, for the price has already been paid by His precious Life- blood that takes away the sin of the world.

      On Good Friday we remembered His death for us(me) and today Sunday, we celebrate His Resurrection – overcoming death and ascending up on High where he reigns until He comes again to take is people home. The dead in Christ shall rise first, then those who are still on the earth that believe in, trust and obey Him will be caught up to meet him in the air – and forever be with Him.
      You know, this is so tremendous message, that no one could invent it. It the revelation for mankind from God in the here and now, and if days and years there be pass from now, it will be relevant then for us all. HAPPY EASTER, ANN.

      • Ann says:

        Happy Easter to you too Nekarios, When I read where Jesus says he wants mercy rather than sacrifice, this makes me think that God never wanted blood sacrifices from man like we read in the OT. Adam after he fell had a distorted image of God, before he walked with God and all was peaceful, I’ve often pondered on if Adam had a connection with God before the fall how his vision of God changed into a view that God now was angry and required blood sacrifice before he would look on man again with mercy.

  11. Ignatius says:

    Ann,
    “The church does not believe in dualism yet we say the devil works his ways by tempting us, why do we say its the devils way rather than man just preferring himself and his ways over Gods way?”

    We are born imperfect and with a tendency to please ourselves. The stain of original sin this represents is washed away at baptism but the tendency stays so we have to struggle with sin basically because we like it. As we grow in faith and grace and as we resist sin we become stronger as did the apostles and the saints, but we can be tempted by a force which is pitted against us, we call this force the devil though I doubt it is he who hangs around my kitchen door whispering “hmmmm chocolate” through Lent. It is worth pondering also that the original sin of Adam is seen as a necessary fault in order that we be given, through Christ both the option of following and the joy of discipleship freely chosen. If you like the fall from grace created the pig pen from where we as prodigals may come to our senses and return home; this is the joy of Easter.

  12. Nektarios says:

    AD
    Before seeking to delve into your loaded questions, and for brevity, we need to understand
    what God is(up to the measure) and what man is actually as he lives breathes and communicates both physically and spiritually.
    We need to understand something of the holiness of God – so holy, that such holiness is incomprehesible and unapproachable to and by us.
    Yet in this image of God, we are told, He created us. Man is the oddest thing in this universe,
    He is both material (of the earth) and also heavenly, Godlike, and there is something in the human heart that has not quite forgotten its native place and longs to return.
    The next thing we have to get to grips with is the nature of sin. Now sin existed before the theologians got at it, seeing it in purely human terms, and often to their own religious ends.
    Sin is missing the mark. What mark is man in a fallen sinful state missing? Perfection – `Be ye holy as I am holy.’ It is God saying return to your former state.
    However, and here the sorrow of man comes in – he could not, for death, being the wages of sin
    prevented man returning to heaven.
    Promises had been given to Adam and Eve, Geness 3:14. He would send someone to end the works of the devil, but not without pain to Him – Christ.
    Until Christ came, death reigned and sin become more entrenched in human nature.
    Christ came to deliver His people from their sin, see the awesome wonder of that!
    When Christ died for us, He descended into Hades and preached the Gospel and set them free.
    Free to do what? Return to heaven.
    Ah, AD, I have just noticed, in this preamble to answer your questions earlier, God has answered them in His Word.
    When it comes to Easter, perhaps we can see how awesome the Death and Resurrection of Christ is for Mankind – Christ is Risen!

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarious.
      You say ‘Sin existed before the theologians got at it,seeing it in purely human terms,and often to their own religious ends.

      What do you mean exactly.

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph
        Apart from those faithful theologians down through the centuries, exactly what I said. There are many in such positions and in academia today, writing books on the Bible and the Christian life that are not faithful to scripture.
        I could go into quite an academic/theological discussion on it with you, but I don’t think you would welcome that somehow?

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        I fear you are not too sure of the truth, more so than my thoughts.

  13. Ignatius says:

    By way of a PS and finally: Yes God is ‘love’ but the love of God is not the same as any kind of love we know. The love of God, as a careful reading of say Genesis, Exodus, Ezekiel Johns Gospel, Corinthians and Revelation will show is far more furiously passionate and vital than we may understand. The love of God is mysterious, implacable, ruthless even and bent towards an end which no flesh can resist. You cannot come through Lent, gaze at the crucifix or look into the maelstrom of history or your own heart not to see this. Happy Easter, Christ is risen!

  14. Nektarios says:

    Ann
    Adam is the representitive of all mankind, being the first. If you have a relationship with God, then clearly he did to, as Genesis on Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
    Fear came in as a result of his disobedience, therefore all of us experience fear of one type or another. One who truly fears God, is wise.

    • Ann says:

      Yes, but somehow I do not fear God in the way people (and adam) did back in the OT. I’m not sure how I should fear God, Jesus seems so far removed from the God in the O.T.

      • Singalong says:

        Ann, the feast of Divine Mercy, which will be celebrated next Sunday, is all about trust in God and His mercy, the boundless love He has for us, and His wish to bring all sinners back to Him. I am finding the devotion very helpful in thinking about confidence in God, sin, and suffering, Christ`s, the world`s, and our own. Google brings up a lot of sites, this is a good one
        http://www.divinemercy.org

      • Nektarios says:

        Ann
        No, Jesus is not far removed from the God of the O.T. in fact, this Jesus is God, this Jesus is the Son of God, This Jesus is the Word of God, The Jesus is the who at the end of the day, is our Judge.
        There is another meaning to the word fear, which means, be attached to.
        So be attached to the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul, looking to Him who is your Saviour, Lord, and Friend and God who is the Author and Finisher of your Faith and without Whom, we can do nothing.

        I would only add,one cannot love that which one is scared stiff of – can one?

      • milliganp says:

        When reading the OT, I try to imagine Jesus reading it in the synagogue and think how Jesus would have interpreted the stories. The OT writers interpreted harsh events as the wrath of God, but these events formed them as a people. Imagine God as the blazing bush which was not consumed. There is a distance at which the fire provides light and heat but go too close and the heat sears. Fear is not about being afraid of the power of God but recognising that power for all it is, and, through Christ realising that we are enabled to come close without fear of destruction.

  15. Ann says:

    Singalong :
    I’m not saying I don’t put my trust in God, nor recognise his love, I’m thinking more of how to fear God. Like if we do not fear God, we are some way not trusting him fully, yet if we do fear him then we are following his word and fearing him.

    • Singalong says:

      Ann, my thinking was that the message of Divine Mercy is as you say, that we should not fear God, but trust in Him and His great mercy. If I understand it properly, I think He does not want us to be afraid, but He wants our confidence to be based on Him, not on ourselves.

      • Vincent says:

        I understand the concept of fearing God in the sense that Jesus uses. He tells us that everything he has comes from the Father; that he is here to present the Father’s message to us, that he is obedient to the Father notwithstanding the price he pays for that. Surely this is the example of reverence we should follow.

        God punishes us? Nonsense! God offers rewards, for which the only fee demanded is love. If we choose not to pay that fee we deprive ourselves of his company for eternity.

  16. Nektarios says:

    St Joseph
    Re: your posting on April 20th at 6.30
    Rest assurred, I do know, and more than that, I do know in whom I have believed and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed against that day.
    I don’t take offence at your remark, but personal opinions/attacks on people writing on the blog
    are not welcome.

  17. Nektarios says:

    Ann
    Correction – The third line should read:
    `….This Jesus is the One who at the end of the day is our Judge.

  18. St.Joseph says:

    Nefarious
    I asked for an answer to your personal opinion
    and attack on people if you are not prepared to make them you could at least be Courtesy with your reply

  19. RAHNER says:

    Final score:
    Advocatus Diaboli 6 Catholic Fundamentalists 0

    • John L says:

      Sorry about the score, I hadn’t been keeping count.
      Am I a fundamentalist? If so, it’s a novel feeling.
      A.D. I have been absent. If you want an expansion of my response, see back to 19th April ff.

  20. Ann says:

    Thanks all for your comments, Nektarios, I see what you mean by using the word fear to also mean attachment. So if i think of it like you say then yes I’m very attached to God. I still do not see Jesus in the O.T to some degree, the God then was one of wrath in a way, when the people were in sin etc he brought about floods and destroyed cities. Jesus seemed to change that, even though we say God does not change, its us that change. But we also do not take the bible literal all the time.

    • Nektarios says:

      Ann,
      Yes, the Bible is quite cryptic in many parts and is often not to be taken literally. However, some parts are literal.
      God the Father is an all consuming fire.That which is not good or holy in his sight will suffer loss and banishment from God.
      So to give you the idea of Jesus in the O.T. consider the plan for your own Salvation
      and the conversation that must have taken place in the Godhead concerning you
      before this world was?
      Consider the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world. He is the Word to Moses and the Prophets that demanded these sacrifices until the appointed time, for the blood of bulls and oxen and lambs were not suficient, though all were types of what Christ would be at His appearing in this world one who would be a sacrifice for us.
      The reason God demands it is judicial. God is still judicial, but he sees those who believe
      in His Son, listen to and follow Him as being justified by faith.
      What you are witness to, Ann, is the unfolding of revelation and God’s plan of Salvation.

      • Ann says:

        Thanks, I’ve never thought about any sort of conversation that may have taken place about myself or anyones salvation. Its sounds mind blowingly far out there! I’m a tiny bit of dust in the midst of our universe, on a journey like everyone else, believing in a creator that knows all and a witness to the unfolding revelation. I can not explain why our creator allows physical suffering, but I know alot of suffering is man made and if we could love each other as Our Lord asked of us, much suffering would end.

  21. St.Joseph says:

    Ann.
    We must not underestimate how many through doctors, nurses, hospitals, and carers are working and giving their life to ease our sufferings, I am only speaking for myself but we must not forget what men and women are doing all over the world ..
    Perhaps you are speaking about world wide wars. However even then we have those dedicated people serving in catholic agencies and the Red Cross etc, elleviating the suffering to others
    Lest we forget..

  22. Nektarios says:

    Ann
    Do we not pray,Our Father who is in heaven….? We would not pray like that unless God was a Person and personal to each of us. Yes?
    That does not mean we understand everything about God, for if we did we would be God, but we are not, yet He is personal to every Christian believer, and every person.
    Secondly, Ann, help me out here, what do you mean by love? What is this love you talk of that ` we should all love on another?’ If we are not careful we just slip into sentimental views about love that is the stock and trade of romantic novelists.
    In my view, God does not allow suffering, but man in his sinful state does, producing suffering the world over, such is the effects of sin on the will of man. It is a kind of madness if you like, where he neither loves God or his neighbour but has become lawless.
    God allows suffering only because He gave man a free God-like free will.

  23. Ann says:

    Sorry I may have read this incorrectly but you said in your view God does not allow suffering, then God allows suffering because he gave man a God like free will? So we can suffer only if we choose? Maybe Love is the wrong word, maybe respect of each other is a better word, and I don’t just mean catholics/christians I mean all people of faith and none. Jesus told the disciples to love one another as he had loved them, he was talking to us too right?

    • Nektarios says:

      Ann
      Let’s clarify your first point. God did not create man to suffer. God does not follow man around so He can find fault and cause him to suffer.
      Man does not choose to suffer, he suffers as a result of his sinful actions.
      Love knows how to behave itself. Much of what passes as Love, is really not love at all,
      and so many marriages breakdown, there are wars, suffering and misery everywhere.

      Please note, Jesus is not talking to those that were not His followers, His disciples, He is speaking directly to the Church, His disciples and we believers that have received their word, and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, it is to them, He says, “Love ye one another as I have loved you”.
      Respect, may be included in the actions of Love, but it is not Love.

      • Ann says:

        I don’t think I said God created man to suffer? Jesus was only talking to the believers? I always thought Jesus was talking to all humans.

  24. johnbunting says:

    After all the foregoing about sin,suffering and responsibility,I wonder if we tend to take some of the Bible, especially the OT, too literally. We refer to it as ‘the Word of God’, but not, I hope, in the literal sense in which, we are told, Muslims regard the Koran. The biblical writers were true authors. Inspired authors yes, but not just amanuenses, copying word for word what was put into their minds ready-made. If their God appears cruel and barbaric, well, that’s common enough when peoples feel themselves under threat, or think, rightly or wrongly, that they have a ‘mission’ of some kind: ‘Vox Populi, vox Dei’. ‘Gott mit Uns’.
    Even so, the OT God is not as black as He is often painted. The Israelites are told to be generous to ‘the strangers within your gates’, and there are other uplifting tales to be found; unless of course you are just proof-texting (or ‘quote-mining’, as it’s called these days) for the bad bits. The Bible shows human nature at its best and its worst. A lot of the indignation about it, not to mention the projectile vomiting of adjectives, boils down to demanding why God didn’t create a world where everyone has a happy time with no risks and little effort. Well, presumably because He thought that facing real problems, and being responsible one for another, would be better for us in the long run.
    As for AD’s simple questions, apply a pinch of salt to the legalistic jargon of past centuries, and think of natural justice. Are we all born into a state of sin? Yes, not predestined to sin, but very much at risk of it. Are we personally responsible for it? Only when we reach an ‘age of discretion’ and are capable of knowing good from evil. If we die in a state of sin, do we go to hell for ever? Think about it. Two people, each burdened by some grave sin, are going to confession. One makes his confession, receives absolution and returns home happy, or at least with less burden on his conscience than when he left. The other, crossing the road to the church, is hit and knocked out by a boy racer in an uninsured car with dodgy brakes. A ambulance is called, but too late: he is dead on arrival at hospital. Is God going to save the first and condemn the second?
    Finally, as for ‘All (all?) Christians getting into a tizzy…….’ etc. Haven’t noticed much of that myself: Our local monthly ‘home group’, mainly Catholic with a sprinkling of others, seem to steer a course between the sins of presumption – thinking God will forgive almost anything – and despair – thinking one is too bad to be forgiven at all – without too much angst. I just assume that God does not want us to go through life in a state of nervous tension over our sins.

    • Vincent says:

      To which, John, we might add this thought. To what lengths is God prepared to go in order to save us? From his infinity he is ready to step down and become a member of his own creation. And from there he undergoes human suffering that we can barely imagine. What more could we expect him to do in order to demonstrate his determination not to lose anyone? The only thing he will not do is overcome the freedom of our will — that characteristic in which we are most like him.

    • RAHNER says:

      “apply a pinch of salt to the legalistic jargon of past centuries,”
      And of course a similar reinterpretation has to be applied to many other Christian doctrines….

  25. St.Joseph says:

    We will be celebrating the coming of the Holy Spirit the Comforter, God equal to the Father and the Son-Jesus promised when He Ascended into Heaven-He told us He would teach us all that we need to know and not to be afraid.
    He descended on the Apostles in the presence of Our Blessed Mother of the Church, the birth. of the Apostolic teaching Church,where we are Baptised in communion with Her, the Beginning of our new birth
    He did not leave us wanting if we trust in Him.

  26. Nektarios says:

    Quentin
    Sorry about that Link to Rahner. I keyed in the link URL and it came up thus.This is however an important lecture for us all to understand

  27. Quentin says:

    Yes, if you click on a link the internet obeys!

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