“Suffering is always charged with mystery, difficult to accept and to bear”
Benedict XVI headed the Catholic Church and was sovereign of the Vatican City State from April 19, 2005 until his resignation on February 28, 2013.
During his papacy, he left remarkable sermons and messages that elucidated human sickness and suffering and what it means to us.
These messages are scattered throughout his brief pontificate.
Pope Benedict XVI extensively discussed the Christian perspective on suffering and death in his encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope).
According to him, although comprehending suffering could be challenging, it presents an opportunity for individuals to grow in faith and strengthen their relationship with God.
He also highlighted that Christian hope for eternal life could provide comfort and solace in the face of death.
During a Mass for the sick and suffering in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI stated that suffering, when united with the Cross of Christ, becomes a means of salvation and a path toward resurrection and eternal life.
He added that suffering could be seen as a gift from God, a grace, and an opportunity to draw closer to Him.
According to the Holy Father was of the view that sickness inevitably brings with it a moment of crisis and sober confrontation with one’s own personal situation.
Advances in the health sciences often provide the means necessary to meet this challenge, at least with regard to its physical aspects.
Human life, however, has intrinsic limitations, and sooner or later it ends in death.
This is an experience to which each human being is called, and one for which he or she must be prepared.
Pope Benedict XVI’s teachings on suffering and death underscored the significance of faith and hope in challenging circumstances.
To those suffering from an incurable and terminal disease, the Holy Father encourages them to contemplate the sufferings of Christ crucified, and, in union with him, to turn to the Father with complete trust that all life, and your lives in particular, are in his hands. Trust that sufferings, united to those of Christ, will prove fruitful for the needs of the Church and the world.
On another occasion, the pope made it clear that it is from the Eucharist that pastoral care in health must draw the necessary spiritual strength to come effectively to man’s aid and to help him to understand the salvific value of his own suffering.
Mysteriously united to Christ, the one who suffers with love and meek self-abandonment to the will of God becomes a living offering for the salvation of the world.
The Holy Father also made special mention of the suffering of children who suffer due to conflicts and wars, and other innocent victims of the insensate hatred of adults.
The pope was also quoted as saying, “It is not by sidestepping or fleeing from suffering that we are healed, but rather by our capacity for accepting it, maturing through it and finding meaning through union with Christ, who suffered with infinite love”
According to the Holy Father, the Son of God suffered, and died, but rose again, and precisely because of this those wounds become the sign of our redemption, forgiveness, and reconciliation with the Father.
However they also become a test for the faith of the disciples and our faith: every time that the Lord speaks about his passion and death, they do not understand, they reject it, they oppose it.
For them, as for us, suffering is always charged with mystery, difficult to accept and to bear.
The two disciples of Emmaus walk sadly because of the events that had taken place in those days in Jerusalem, and only when the Risen One walks along the road with them do they open up to a new vision.
Even the apostle Thomas manifests the difficulty of believing in the way of redemptive passion: “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’
But before Christ who shows his wounds, his response is transformed into a moving profession of faith: “My Lord and my God!”
What was at first an insurmountable obstacle, because it was a sign of Jesus’ apparent failure, becomes, in the encounter with the Risen One, proof of a victorious love: ‘Only a God who loves us to the extent of taking upon himself our wounds and our pain, especially innocent suffering, is worthy of faith.”
In his encyclical Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope), Pope Benedict XVI wrote extensively about the Christian view of suffering and death.
He argued that while suffering can be difficult to understand, it is ultimately an opportunity to grow in faith and deepen our relationship with God.
He also wrote that the Christian hope of eternal life can provide comfort and solace in the face of death.
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