John Paul II

29th Week in Ordinary Time
Thursday 22nd October

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.” [Luke 12:51]

This is a side to Jesus and his mission that appeals to some, but not to all. We like the Christmas story, the welcoming of sinners, and the healing of the sick. We empathise with his frustration and anger towards the faith leaders of his day, and suffer with him as he takes the lonely road to Calvary. But what do we make of his teaching on division, discord, misunderstanding, and the stress and pain that comes with it? Surely, the point of believing in God is that we will be spared all that?

It seems not. For that is, in my experience, one of the hardest things to communicate with people about our faith: what we believe is not the panacea for all life’s ills. Faith is not an inoculation against suffering or a vaccine to prevent having a difficult life. In spite of their faith, Christians have always suffered. In fact, sometimes they have suffered precisely because of their faith.

There are three things we know about the interconnection between faith and suffering: 1. that in spite of his faith, Jesus suffered – so we shouldn’t expect that we will be protected from that experience 2. that suffering is not something God sends to ‘test us’, but instead it is an experience into which he enters with us  and 3. suffering is not part of God’s plan for us and, along with sin and death, the time will come when it will be no more.

In the meantime, Jesus is aware in today’s text that your affiliation with him will at times leave you alienated from the world and even from those that you love. This will bring you pain. That is when your brothers and sisters in faith are to be the ones you can rely on. Perhaps the fact that that is also not always so is itself the cause of suffering.

Today is the feast day of St Pope John Paul II. Even his legacy as a teacher of the faith is dwarfed by the witness of his fidelity in suffering.

By Shane Dwyer

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