Saturday, 8 March 2008

IX. Jesus falls for the third time

Looking at the ninth station of the cross Edward Schillebeeckx OP would surely have to comment that 'God, in some sense, has got a struggle on God's hands.' Schillebeeckx addressed human suffering beginning with his understanding that it could never be understood. Suffering could not be argued against, or explained, it could only be shared; in fact, it demanded to be shared and that is why those in pain are often in such desperate need of someone who will listen to them tell their story. Theological explanations and theories are not enough to explain to the mystery of evil in this world, they never add up.

The Stations of the Cross are another example of 'telling the story' of suffering. Schillebeeckx understood the ministry of Jesus as a protest against suffering. Where he saw Jesus ministering to the sick, he saw a protest against evil and the relief of suffering. For Christians today suffering demands that we take example from this ministry, listening to the suppressed stories of people in their pain, and actively ministering to ensure the prevention and the relief of suffering. In the suffering of the Passion Schillebeeckx refuses to talk about the 'abandonment' of Jesus. Instead he argues that we should understand that God was silently present throughout this terrifying ordeal: 'God nevertheless remains near at hand...salvation consists in the fact that man still holds fast to God's invisible hand in this dark night of faith.' God waits to bring resurrection from death. Schillebeeckx is clear that evil is not 'allowed' or 'permitted' by God for a 'greater good'. This language, so often used to express confusion in the mystery of suffering is unhelpful. "God, who according to Leviticus, 'abominates human sacrifices' (Lev 18: 21 - 30; 20: 1 - 5), did not put Jesus in the cross. Human beings did that. The Kingdom of God comes despite of, not because of, the human misuse of power and the rejection of the message if the King of Peace.
'The story of Jesus assures us that entering into communion with suffering people and acting to bring life out of death is what God does for a living. This memory is not the same as an explanation, for suffering remains a mystery."

This post has used extensively the thoughts and words of Robin Ryan CP who published Holding onto the Hand of God: Edward Schilllebeeckx on the Mystery of Suffering in New Blackfriars Vol 89 NO 1019 January 2008, Pages 114 - 126.

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