The cross of Christ has changed the meaning of pain and human suffering—of every kind of suffering, physical and moral. It is no longer punishment, a curse. It was redeemed at its root when the Son of God took it upon himself.
And not only the pain of those who have faith, but of every human pain. He died for all human beings: “And when I am lifted up from the earth,” he said, “I will draw everyone to myself” (Jn 12:32).
Everyone, not just some! St. John Paul II wrote from his hospital bed after his attempted assassination, “To suffer means to become particularly susceptible, particularly open to the working of the salvific powers of God, offered to humanity in Christ.”
What light does all of this shed on the dramatic situation that the world is going through now? The pandemic of Coronavirus has abruptly roused us from the greatest danger individuals and humanity have always been susceptible to: the delusion of omnipotence.
It took merely the smallest and most formless element of nature, a virus, to remind us that we are mortal, that military power and technology are not sufficient to save us.
God does this with us sometimes: he disrupts our projects and our calm to save us from the abyss we don’t see. But we need to be careful not to be deceived. God is our ally, not the ally of the virus! He himself says in the Bible, “I have . . . plans for your welfare and not for woe” (Jer 29:11).
If these scourges were punishments of God, it would not be explained why they strike equally good and bad, and why the poor usually bring the worst consequences of them. Are they more sinners than others? No!
The one who cried one day for Lazarus’ death cries today for the scourge that has fallen on humanity. Yes, God “suffers”, like every father and like every mother. When we will find out this one day, we will be ashamed of all the accusations we made against him in life. God participates in our pain to overcome it.
“Being supremely good” – wrote St. Augustine – “God would not allow any evil in his works, unless in his omnipotence and goodness, he is able to bring forth good out of evil.”
Excerpted from Good Friday homily of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap., St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Apr 10, 2020.