Innocent suffering helps save the world

Maria Kozakiewicz

WORD MADE FLESH

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time – February 8, 2015
Job 7.1-4, 6-7 | Psalm 147 | 1 Corinthians 9.16-19, 22-23 | Mark 1.29-39
January 26, 2015

I have just talked to my friend who works with severely handicapped children. One of them, a girl aged 13, died suddenly, after a life of cruel limitations and suffering.

As my granddaughter is the same age, my heart trembled at the thought of what the girl's family must be going through. Suddenly this unknown child became very dear to me.

The early teens is the most beautiful time of a child's growth, comparable with the budding of roses or gentle unfolding of leaves on trees in April.

I thought about Job, the symbol of suffering, and also about another small girl, whose dresses, toys and other simple mementos I saw in a church in Rome.

Nennolina (venerated Antonietta Meo) died of bone cancer at the age of six, offering Jesus her suffering. She bore excruciating pain with great patience. Her letters to Jesus, simple and sweet, show great maturity of soul.

Here we have two innocent little girls who were baptized, suffered and died prematurely. Nennolina expressed her love for God; my friend's student could not – she did not speak.

That evening at sundown, they brought to Jesus all who were sick. – Mark 1.32

'That evening at sundown, they brought to Jesus all who were sick.'

Mark 1.32

They are in heaven now, but we remain here, struggling with the question: Why does God allow children to suffer so much?

Maybe their suffering, united to Christ's, helps save the world. Maybe we are still walking the face of the world, and many souls do not go to hell, because that innocent suffering and prayer keeps our planet from destruction and acquires mercy for sinners.

Maybe when we see contorted bodies of children in wheelchairs, teenagers hooked to oxygen tanks, old folks twisted with rheumatism painfully walking up to receive Communion, we should close our eyes and see with our hearts who they really are: knights in shining armour, valiant, joyous, fighting in defence of we who are poor, weak and pitifully blind to spiritual realities.

COSMIC STRUGGLE

If we look around, we can see a struggle of cosmic proportions between the forces of evil and forces of God raging. Families fall apart, basic natural laws are broken legally, holy sacraments are abused or neglected. Christians in many countries die on a much larger scale than during the first ages of Christianity.

As we live in our prosperous, free and cozy corner of the world, it may be hard to admit all this is real, and yet it is. It will become increasingly hard to deny this fact and to avoid taking sides.

For all of us, taking the Christian side means evangelization – at home, at work, everywhere, beginning with self-evangelization, with opening our own eyes by developing radical faith.

This will not come without a cost. St. Paul admits he made himself into a slave "to win over as many as possible" or "to save at least some." A "slave" can be abused, ridiculed with impunity, beaten or killed. Becoming a slave for Christ means putting everything on the line.

But St. Paul also says: "Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel." Woe to us all.