Jesus Christ, the definitive answer to human suffering.
When faced with suffering, whether our own or another’s, there is no more common question than “Why?” “Why is this happening to me? Why is this happening to them?” “Why? Why? Why?” And when no answer seems to come, either from heaven or from earth, we take our complaint directly to God: “Why have you abandoned me? Why don’t you answer me? Why are you so silent?”
One might expect, then, that after thousands of years of human beings asking this question, God the Father would eventually answer it when He sent His Son. And He did. But He didn’t answer it an abstract way, with mere words (Cf. Salvifici Doloris n. 26). Nowhere in the gospels do we hear Jesus giving a dissertation on the problem of human suffering. If anyone could have given such a dissertation, it would have been Jesus, and yet He didn’t.
Why? Because words are never enough to answer the questions that arise in the face of suffering. If for every question we asked, we promptly received, in the mail, a personal, hand-written letter from God, explaining in so many words why this or that event happened, we would still not be satisfied. Perhaps our minds would be satisfied, but not our hearts. Suffering is not just an intellectual problem; it’s a problem that affects our entire being, it penetrates us to our very bones.
Because it affects our entire being, because it is with our entire being—body and soul, mind and heart—that we ask the question, the only adequate answer to the problem of human suffering is another human being. The only adequate answer is not a string of words, but a single Word: The Word made flesh. God the Father has heard our questions. He has not abandoned us. He has not remained silent. An answer has come from heaven. And the answer is Jesus Christ. “Behold the wood of the Cross.” For on the Cross hung not only the salvation of the world, but the answer to the world’s deepest and most painful questions about human suffering.
Jesus preached the most eloquent sermon on human suffering from the Cross. But He preached less in words than in silence. “Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus spoke very little during His Passion not because He had nothing to say, but because His words were not primarily what we needed. Jesus Himself, in His very being, was what we needed. We needed Him to enter into our suffering, to let it penetrate Him to His very bones. We needed Him to reveal to us, under the crushing weight of His own suffering, that our suffering, if accepted in humble obedience, can unleash love upon the world (Cf. Salvifici Doloris n. 29). For from the Cross, from Jesus’ wounds and pierced side, love has been unleashed and poured out upon the world.
In response to our deepest and most painful questions about suffering, Jesus gave us no spoken answer: Because He Himself was the answer. No other answer would have sufficed (Cf. C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, p. 308). Words would not have been enough. Only the Word made flesh, and made to suffer and die like us, was enough.
As we gaze upon the Cross this afternoon, as we venerate the Cross in our homes, let us see in our pierced and wounded Savior the definitive answer to the question posed by every pierced and wounded heart, to the question posed by all those who suffer. And the answer is this: Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh; the One who once suffered and died, but now is alive forever (Cf. Revelation 1:18).