Sunday, April 13, 2008

Have you ever suffered for doing good?

Why do bad things happen to good people? Every time there is an accident, or a death, or someone loses their job, or children suffer, this question pops into our heads. For many, the existence of the question itself is enough to make them doubt God's goodness, or even His existence. I suppose those who doubt God in this manner are simply refusing to acknowledge that a good God would permit bad things to happen. But that is a matter of what a person wants to believe that God must be, rather than looking at the way God really is. The Bible, in the book of Genesis, addresses this question and concludes that bad things happen as the result of human sin. And human beings can sin because they have free will, given to them by a loving God. God simply will not take away our freedom, just because we misuse it.
2. But still the question remains, if they are not sinning, why do bad things happen when people are trying to be good? We may acknowledge that bad things ought to happen to people doing evil, but what about us? It really is a personal question- why do bad things happen to me when I am trying to be good? All our actions, for good or evil, affect more than just ourselves individually. Our actions affect everyone. When we lie, or are unfaithful, or use foul or blasphemous speech, or committ any sort of sin, it wounds the entire community. (Likewise our virtue and holiness, courage and generosity build up the community.)
3. Saint Peter speaks about the bad that happens to those who are trying to do good. He states that in fact, If you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called... We have been called to suffer for doing what is good. That is, to suffer for doing right is part of our baptismal committment. At first, such a statement does not appear to be good news. Why would God call us to suffer? And what if I want to say no?
4. First, God calls us to suffer for doing what is good because that is exactly what He does. Look at Jesus: innocent, without sin, holy- He went about healing people and preaching the Good News that God desires to forgive us and bring us back to Him into an intimate relationship with God as our Father. But still there were those who tried to kill Him, and who made false accusations regarding His actions. In the end, they spat on Him, beat Him, and crucified Him. Jesus had the power to stop any of the torture or beatings. With a word, He could have killed all of those who were hurting Him. In fact, if He could have put them out of His mind, and they would have ceased to even exist. But Jesus did not do that. Instead, He patiently endured suffering for our sake. Peter says: He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.
5. Our patient endurance of suffering when we are doing good is one of the ways in which we are made like our Savior Jesus Christ. If we are truly to be His followers, we have to accept being just like Him.
6. Of course, there is the possibility of simply refusing to accept the suffering. Some people have decided that if suffering is the result of doing good in imitation of Jesus, then they will choose their own way. In response to this, Peter quote the prophet Isaiah For you had gone astray like sheep. He evokes the image of sheep without a shepherd, each trying to find its way alone. But there is no other way to eternal life with the Father. Jesus is the gate of heaven, only through Him do we find our rest. Anyone who tries to enter another way is just a thief and a marauder, interested in the death of the flock.
7. In the Gospel, Jesus said that His sheep recognize His voice. And as a result, they are able to find what they need because they follow Him. If we want to recognize the voice of the Lord, we must pray and become familiar with it. If we set ourselves on following Him, then we must be willing to go all the way- through the desert and to the cross.

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