Minute Homily: The Problem of Suffering

5th Sunday of Lent (B)

An argument people often use against the existence of God is what’s called the Problem of Suffering. It goes like this: if God is all good, all knowing, and all powerful, there wouldn’t be suffering in the world. There is suffering, therefore God doesn’t exist.

It sounds logical, but it assumes all suffering is bad, and we know on a natural level that this isn’t always true. For example, think about what happens when you go to the dentist to have a cavity filled. When the dentist drills into your tooth, he is causing you suffering. But we endure it because we know it will bring us healing. Something similar can be said for when a loving parent disciplines a child. They cause suffering, but it’s for the child’s good.

So if suffering is sometimes necessary to bring about good on a natural level, we shouldn’t exclude that possibility on a supernatural level. And this is what Jesus means in this Sunday’s gospel when he says, “unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit.” There is good to come from suffering.

God shows us this is true because instead of removing all suffering, he chooses to suffer with us. Jesus endured suffering and death. He never sinned. He didn’t deserve it. As God he lacked nothing. But as the letter to the Hebrews says, he learned obedience through suffering and was made perfect. And the fruit produced by his suffering is salvation for all who obey him.

And how do we obey him? By following him. By taking up our cross, our own personal suffering, and uniting it with that redemptive cross of Christ so that by dying to our old self, like that grain of wheat, we might rise up to new and eternal life.