Faith accompanying suffering

Yesterday the Vatican released The Light of Faith, an encyclical that was begun by Benedict XVI and finished and promulgated by Pope Francis.

I have not had time to study it – and, being weak from bronchitis, I don’t think I’ll get around to doing a thorough reading until I feel much better.

But I found paragraph 57 intriguing:

Nor does the light of faith make us forget the sufferings of this world. How many men and women of faith have found mediators of light in those who suffer! So it was with Saint Francis of Assisi and the leper, or with Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her poor. They understood the mystery at work in them. In drawing near to the suffering, they were certainly not able to eliminate all their pain or to explain every evil. Faith is not a light which scatters all out darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices fro the journey. To those who suffer God does not provide arguments which explain everything; rather, his response is that of an accompanying presence, a history of goodness which touches every story of suffering and opens up a ray of light. In Christ, God himself wishes to share this path with us and to offer us his gaze so that we might see the light within it. Christ is the one, who having endured suffering, is “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:1).

The tender images of God as “an accompanying presence” with the suffering and of Christ as God who “wishes to share this path with us” provide us with a challenge to live faith and to serve the poor, not because they are good things to do, but because accompanying the poor and enduring suffering are who God is.

It’s a very incarnational view of faith and love, rooted in the Incarnation and calling us to live our faith in the world, accompanying those who suffer.

For, as the encyclical says in paragraph 51:

 Faith does not draw us away from the world or prove irrelevant to the concrete concerns of men and women of our time.

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