Tuesday, March 4, 2008

God's story is good news

I have been pondering the meaning of suffering ever since reading a review of Dr. Sidney Callhan's latest book last Friday. My assertion that suffering has no intrinsic meaning because evil is a parasite has prompted a few very good questions and observations. It seems that the question, which is one that I am pretty sure Callhan addresses in her book- it is certainly addressed by Crysdale and Dr. Williams, among others- after the assertion that evil and suffering have no intrinsic meaning, once we have clarified that God is not a sadist and we are not masochists, is can suffering have meaning? If suffering can and does have meaning, how? Hint: there is no Deus ex machina involved. If suffering is to have meaning it must be appropriated, that is, made sense of by the sufferer. Well, this gets us back to Hauerwas' assertion that "Eschatology indicates that the world, including ourselves, is storied". Michael Spencer (a.k.a. the internetmonk) gives us clarity in the form of wisdom, which is always succinct. In a post entitled Humiliation, Humanity and the Fifth Commandment: Can We Tell The Truth About Those Whose Sin Affects Us?, he writes: "The Gospel is God’s story. The Biblical story is God’s story. The invitation of God is to join our stories with his, and to come to terms with the elements of our own stories in the context of the story that reveals a new world and new people in the image of Jesus Christ."

This is not an unheard of way of making sense of suffering. In fact, both Williams and Crysdale, along with many other Christian writers and theologians, insist that this is the way of making sense of suffering, especially our own. It is not somebody else's job to tell our story, we must find our voice and tell our own story. In this way we become not just admirers of Jesus, but disciples. It is also bears noting that Michael's post is a powerful meditation on how sin is never a private affair, but affects our communion. I find it heartening to be reminded by a Protestant brother that, as Catholics, we need to find a way of reappropriating this truth through our practice of penance as a sacrament, which, for many, has become a dead exercise of reading off our (dirty) laundry list in an ornate box. Hence, something to be avoided. I think this is an area in which a mutual exchange could prove most fruitful.

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