In carrying on, John Paul also offers us a precious gift: his suffering. It is hard to see him suffer. But this pope does not ask for relief from his sufferings. To the contrary, a bishop once told me that the pope used to refuse medication precisely because it interfered with his suffering. He has a mystical relationship with his suffering, offering it up for us, and for the whole world — a world that increasingly embraces the culture of death, euthanasia, and the abortion of disabled fetuses, because it mistakenly believes there is no greater moral good than relief from suffering. In bearing his pain, John Paul says to us, in union with the Apostle Paul, "I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions."
In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis wrote, "You would like to know how I behave when I am experiencing pain, not just writing books about it....I will tell you;
I am a great coward." Most of us are. So our world needs this struggling pope, who inspires millions of frail and elderly people. We need his example, which affirms the continuing value of every human person who feels isolated by illness and abandoned by a society. And we need to be reminded that we all have responsibilities to the weakest among us — to help them live in dignity, and to value the gift of their presence, whatever their condition, at every stage of their lives.
Friday, April 1, 2005
MH - More on the Meaning of Suffering
by Our Word
Marc Thiessen has a nice piece on suffering at NRO, on how JPII is giving all of us a final lesson in the last hours of his pontificate. Excerpt: