How do you respond to someone who asks you how you can believe in a so-called loving God when there is so much evoke in the world? How can God allow innocent people, children, to suffer? As a priest, I must admit that I struggle with these questions because I find myself asking the very same questions. I’m supposed to have the answers but there truly is no satisfying answer to these questions that cause so many to lose faith and not believe in the existence of God.
In today’s gospel, Jesus heals a man who begs him to cure his blindness. Jesus cures the man, but cures him in response to his faith and ability to identify Jesus: “Son of David have pity on me.” The blind man is acknowledging that Jesus is the messiah in the line of David.
But the one thing I keep reminding myself and people who pose these difficult, ultimate questions of how God allows evil, is that Jesus only cured a handful of individuals. Not everyone who was sick when Jesus walked the face of the earth was healed. The healings were truly miracles but they occurred on a limited basis and for a purpose: to awaken people to the true identity of Jesus. The point of the gospel healings and miracles were not just for the individuals who received this magnificent gift, but also for those who WITNESSED the miracle. Jesus wanted everyone, especially the one who didn't need to be physically healed, to come to faith.
Another paragraph to begin with but: BUT why not heal EVERYONE, especially the innocent? Here’s the rub: if Jesus heals EVERYONE, especially children, then he becomes a magician to be manipulated. “Poof,” and your child is healed. Why some people experience a miracle, and miracles DO happen, and most of us don’t, is the ultimate mystery that must lead to the Cross. The Cross is inescapable.
The Cross is the ultimate place of suffering, pain, rejection. All the world’s pain and suffering- past, present and future- is embraced by the open arms of suffering Jesus. His power is NOT in the miracles but in his identity as the SON who asks us all to walk through the pathway of suffering, trusting that it will lead beyond the Cross and into RESURRECTION. Life!!!
There would be no deep faith if everyone who needs to be healed is actually healed. Then why not simply raise up from the dead someone who has just died. Jesus made three people that we know about rise from death. Why not bring to life EVERY widow’s child, or 12 year old daughter, or younger brother?
Remember, each of the three people Jesus made rise from death had to go through it all over again. Lazurus eventually had to die a second time!!!! If I were lazarus, I would have asked Jesus why he didn’t just leave me alone in the tomb!! There is one truth beyond paying taxes that is much more imperative: we are ALL going to die and our bodies will remain separated from our souls until Jesus returns and gives us all the beauty of an eternal Easter: Body and Soul reunited in glory and unending life.
When someone asks me the difficult questions of faith, I try not to explain the theological reasons of how God and suffering go together. Instead, I just listen and respond by saying I, too, have these questions, but I bring them to God, who also listens and understands our doubts. I wait for God’s response. I never receive an adequate answer but I do receive a depth of presence, love, that compels me to keep moving forward with all the questions. In the moving forward, I experience a love beyond all telling and describing. God didn’t heal my own need for a difficult surgery, but gave me something much more precious: he stayed with me in the surgery and beyond. For me... a miracle.
Advent is coming. Get ready!!!!