DCMission Statement

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Suffering and Forgiveness: Finding God when Light Deceives Us

Fr. Wade Menezes, C.P.M. has presented in a homily a list of salvific aspects of suffering given by Bl. Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris ("On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering"):

1. Suffering strengthens character.
2. Suffering helps us to be sympathetic toward others who are suffering.
3. Suffering helps us to make up for past forgiven sins already confessed in the confessional.
4. Suffering unites the sufferer with Jesus Christ.
5. Suffering can be offered up for the benefit of others.
6. Suffering benefits the caregiver(s).

Here, we will be considering one aspect of number 4.

Let us return to this point later. If we are to step back for a moment and take a close look at 14th-century France, we will come to find the bishop of Lisieux, Nicole Oresme, gazing at the stars and studying an effect for which scientists and engineers still account in their work today. A DCMission video presents briefly some basic details regarding Oresme's dealings with this problem called atmospheric refraction, which can cause a star at a distant location in the cosmos to appear at a different position than it actually is.

Now, it just so happens that my coworkers and I encounter this problem quite frequently in our daily work. With long-range radars, when an object resides in a different layer of the atmosphere than the radar itself, the varying conditions of the atmosphere (e.g. pressure, temperature, moisture) cause the electromagnetic impulses to travel a bent path and make that object appear in a different location that it actually is. Going by the labels in the figure below, the bending of the light can in fact make the object appear at distance d1+d2. Through a closer look and a more thorough analysis - a more logical analysis - one will come to find that the object is actually at distance d0 from the radar. The light has deceived us. Our object is actually closer to us than we had first thought.

Now, when others cause us to suffer unjustly, we are presented with an occasion to allow God's forgiveness to work through us. This forgiveness means no less than that all of our efforts - including both our prayers and our actions - are directed toward that person's eternal salvation. But realize that what we can see of God's forgiveness flowing through us for the other person is only a dim reflection of Christ's forgiveness of us - which is infinitely more - for our offenses against Him and others. The suffering, then, when integrated with this glimpse of God's forgiveness, affords us the opportunity to form an enhanced rendering of the nature of Christ Himself. By this sharper vision, might we be so bold as to wager that He may be closer to us than we might have estimated at first glance?

I just might.