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Unexpected response from God

Sunday, 03 July 2011 00:00

Something must be terribly wrong with the world today. Despite technological developments to improve the quality of life and despite the reported upliftment of millions of people in developing nations from poverty, life across the globe is becoming more difficult. The World Bank reports that within a year, from April 2010 to April 2011, global food prices have increased by as much as 36 percent, partly due to the rising cost of crude oil, which has increased a staggering 21 percent during the first quarter alone of 2011. Consequently, an estimated 44 million additional human beings have fallen below the poverty threshold from June 2010 to June 2011.

Add to the global problem of worsening hunger and poverty the intensifying natural calamities wreaking havoc all over. This first half of the year alone, we recall with horror the devastating earthquake in New Zealand, the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the landslides in Brazil, and the string of tornadoes in the Unites States. When we take into stock the suffering due to political discontent in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Algeria and numerous other places, life indeed seems to be becoming more and more difficult to bear for millions of people across the globe.

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The God-Question. Hhuman suffering evokes religious questions: if there is a God, why does God allow us to suffer so? If God were truly loving and almighty, why doesn’t God spare us from such suffering? Human beings, since time immemorial, have wrestled with what is called the problem of theodicy, the question of God in relation to inexplicable pain and suffering.

In the face of suffering, we can dismiss belief in God’s existence. Or believe in a God who creates the cosmos but leaves the world shaped by natural laws and human freedom to its own. However as Christians we hold on to our belief in God’s self-revelation as a loving God. Nonetheless, in the midst of suffering, we press the Lord, “Where are you? Do You hear our pleas? Do our cries affect You at all?”

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Jesus: God’s reply. Jesus today proclaims that the Father has revealed the answers to our deepest questions not to the wise, but to the little ones who put their faith and trust in Jesus as the One from the Father, as the One alone who knows and has revealed the Father, “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

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Unexpected replies. God has been telling us that our ways are not His ways. In our First Reading the prophet Zechariah proclaims to Israel awaiting deliverance from slavery that the anointed king that God will send will not conform to their expectations of a vindictive warrior-king. Instead, the king will come as a just and meek savior who will banish the warrior’s bow and proclaim peace to all nations.

Similarly, as we ourselves await deliverance from suffering, God confounds us by responding in ways contrary to our expectations. Instead of abolishing suffering, God embraces human anguish. Instead of vanquishing evil, God allows himself to become victim of human sin. Instead of annihilating the forces of death, God in Jesus undergoes death.

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God’s reply to our questions about theodicy is not a convincing philosophical argument or a consoling proverb. God’s reply is an event—God’s incarnation in Jesus Christ; God’s embrace of the human condition from womb to tomb. For Love enters into solidarity with the beloved; Love embraces the suffering of the beloved. Our omnipotent God reveals Himself to us as love that is at once vulnerable and absolute.

“Come to me, you who are weary,” the Lord Jesus invites us. The Lord assures us, “I can give you comfort because I know your pain. I can offer you solace because I know your despair. I offer you hope and life anew because despite the cross I have overcome death.”

Published: The Philippine Star

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