Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
April 14, 2003
Walk through God's silence
The celebration of Good Friday is, above all, a memorial of the silence of God. Jesus asks for this cup tof be taken away, but if it is the Father's will, let it be done. And on the cross, he cries, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" There is no answer. Jesus, Messiah and Son of God, dies a horrific death.
All of us who reached some level of spiritual maturity have experienced something like this. We pray for an end to abortion; nothing happens. We pray for peace; war comes. A close relative dies in the prime of life. A child is born with permanent physical disabilities. Why does an omnipotent God allow such tragedy to occur?
Why does God not suspend human free will or suspend the laws of nature and make everything alright? If we are spiritually honest, we will struggle with these questions till the day we die and not be able to give a satisfactory answer. We will have to acknowledge that God's purposes are beyond our knowing. They are a great mystery.
Yet, it is in the events of Good Friday and Easter that we also see the answer to our pleading. "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that we might not die, but have eternal life." Jesus' death was an act of love that overcame all human sin and division and opened up to us the possibility of eternal happiness. We call this atonement - a making good from the human side for all the sin and chaos men and women have brought into the world.
People have written learned books explaining Christ's atoning sacrifice, but we cannot fully understand why it was necessary and what it offers us. The atonement is not a convincing proof that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. His death would not convince a skeptic of God's goodness; it would only bolster the skeptic's belief that Christ was a fool and far from being God.
We are left with faith. When the person without faith hears us talk about the silence of God, all he hears are, what to him, are pious platitudes. He asks, "Where is God's love amidst such tragedy?" The Christian can only point to the cross . . . and to Jesus' band of followers who were so convinced by what he said and did that they too were willing to give their lives rather than renounce that truth.
On a wall in a cellar in Cologne, Germany, where Jews had hidden from the Nazis, an inscription was written by an anonymous author who later perished: "I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when not feeling it. I believe in God even when he is silent."
For the Jewish people, the Holocaust was the ultimate example of God's silence. Until then, they could believe that the persecution and woes to which they had been subject were God's punishment for the infidelity. But they couldn't believe that of the Holocaust for such a belief would make Hitler God's instrument.
In his April 2 weekly audience talk, Pope John Paul said, "God, even when he seems silent in the face of oppression, injustice or any other evil which touches man, never stops loving him and always comes to his aid if he turns to God with trust."
This can be the part that is so hard to accept. To accept it means believing that God's ways are not our ways and that we cannot fully understand God's ways. To enter into a relationship with God is to enter into a darkness where we don't know what is contained.
In the early persecutions of the Christians, many renounced their faith rather than accepting death. They had not learned how to enter into the darkness. They believed more in their expectations of what the omnipotent God would allow than in what he was really allowing.
Today, we avoid the darkness in other ways. But we must always be ready to accept, even rejoice, in the silence of God and realize that it is only when the final trumpet blows that all will be made clear.
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