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God’as Love and Mercy in Pain and Suffering

by Fr. Serg Kabamalan, CJM

Jean Piaget, a renowned child development psychologist, believed that an infant perceives the physical environment as an extension of himself in the early stage of his life. It cannot perceive depth and height, and therefore has no inkling about the dangers of falling and getting hurt. Put a child who has just learned how to crawl on a bed, and it would eventually crawl to the edge of the bed and hurt himself. The child learns about himself and the danger through pain and slowly grow in perception the there is an objective world out there.

It seems to me that such mode of learning i.e., through pain and suffering continues beyond childhood and into adulthood. Viewed from religious experience, it is labeled as “punishment.” Viewed from psycho-social perspective, it can be labeled as consequences of one’s choices and actions.

The Israelites would learn about their identity as a nation from their mistakes and the consequences of their infidelity to God. The exile in Babylon is one great “punishment” or consequence of their decisions and actions as a people . It was a learning experience from them. Smarting from the experience of infidelity, they would strive hard to reflect and set the things aright by devoting themselves to God despite and because of the spiritual distance and void that they experienced, cut-off from the Temple sacrifice. It was in Babylon that they reflected back on their spiritual origin, and in their effort to reach out to God and grasp the meaning of life in their misfortune, they found themselves bringing together the then separate written materials and oral traditions into what would become later as one book – the Hebrew Scriptures, a great narrative of God’s love and mercy. In due time, they saw in King Cyrus of Persia the hand of God allowing them to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple (2 Chr 36:22-23).

Their strivings opened up themselves up to the love and mercy of God, which would find its fullness in Christ, who when raised up on the Cross would reveal the great extent of these same love and mercy of God, revealed through pain and suffering. The raising up of the Bronze Serpent prefigured the raising up of the Son of Man on the cross. While Moses made and raised the bronze serpent to heal those who have been bitten by snakes, Jesus willingly allowed himself to be raised on the Cross to heal the world of all its maladies, corruption and all that poisons and blocks humanity’s progress according to the Plan of Salvation (cf. Jn 3:14-15).

By making present this “lifting up” now, we are being invited to become an expression of God’s love and mercy in our own time and space. Crucial to this is our response to this question: “Who do you lift up in your own life choices and actions amidst pain and suffering?”

Some Thoughts:

- To be raised up – means to be held up and be identified as the remedy to the brokenness of the world

- Though Jesus suffered and was physically broken… indeed just as broken as the those who are to be saved. Which makes healing doubly effective

- Jesus was raised from the very same situation of helplessness, and proved to be the antidote we need

- Coming from among the people instead of coming down from heaven… although yes, Jesus did came down from the heavens

- But came to embrace humanity in its dire condition

- And only then was raised

- Raised to be seen, and recognized as the embodiment of a new world order, and a foil to the darkness

- What was raised was not just Jesus but also his way of life for all the world to see, evaluated and be embraced into action

- Mission aspect of the cross

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