5th Sunday of Easter (A) 2017

‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.’ The world contains great joy and great sorrow. There is great love and great hate. There is great health and great illness and pain. There is great hunger and great abundance. There is great good fortune and great misfortune. How does one reconcile this suffering with a totally good God. It is true that much of our suffering and pain results from ones own actions and words and much from the actions and words of other people. Even if I can blame myself or others for a lot of my suffering there still remains a lot of suffering which I cannot blame on anybody. So where does this leave me? It leaves me with the very same problem; Why does a totally good God allow suffering? Why did the Creator create a world where suffering is endemic? Over the years I have read everything I have come across on this subject. All are helpful to a greater or lesser degree on a theological and intellectual level. Not very useful on a practical, ‘ad hoc’, here and now situation. At this stage in my life I think that the answer must come from within, on two levels. Firstly, the person best qualified to bring comfort is one who has suffered the same type of pain or grief. One who actually feels the pain and grief of the sufferer. This ability is a precious gift to those who have actually suffered and grown with the experience, and should be recognised and used to bring comfort and acceptance to others. This is a ministry which many of you possess without realising it. Anyone of you who have undergone or are still undergoing, pain and grief, and still hold to your faith and trust in a totally good God, have a great potential to bring comfort and healing to those presently experiencing pain and grief. Not so much by what you can say to them but rather by your compassionate and understanding presence. By sharing in their pain and loss. Secondly the person them self who is suffering, must try and reach into them self and hold tight to their faith and trust in the total goodness of their God despite what they are going through now. For example; After Jesus was tempted for forty days in the wilderness and was exhausted, and again in the Garden of Gethsemane when he was overcome with dread of his approaching execution, we are told that angels came to comfort and strengthen him. Here, Angels can be taken as symbols, meaning that Jesus received comfort and strength from his total belief and trust in his God. It was his belief and trust in the total goodness of God and that his total wellbeing was safely in God’s hands, that gave him comfort and strength to live through this pain, grief and distress. This is what I mean when I say that the answer to pain and grief must come from within. From within the comforter and the sufferer. It must come from my God who dwells within me. How else could the early Christians face or even contemplate being torn to pieces by wild animals in the colosseum for the amusement of the crowds. How else can a parent survive the death of a child and yet believe in a totally good God. How else can one survive the long drawn out pain and death of a lifelong marriage partner and yet trust in one’s God. So when all is said and done we are left with the mystery of God and the apparent contradiction between perceived reality and the words of Jesus – ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.’