All suffering is a “mystery,” writes the newly acquitted and released Cardinal George Pell in an Easter message, but Christianity offers tools to embrace it and make it fruitful.
“Christians can cope with suffering better than the atheists can explain the beauty and happiness of life,” writes the Australian prelate, who was imprisoned unjustly by the state for 405 days before finally being vindicated.
“I have just spent 13 months in jail for a crime I didn’t commit, one disappointment after another,” continues the 78-year-old cardinal. “I knew God was with me, but I didn’t know what He was up to, although I realised He has left all of us free. But with every blow it was a consolation to know I could offer it to God for some good purpose like turning the mass of suffering into spiritual energy.”
A fundamental difference “between God-fearers and secularists today is found in the approach to suffering,” Pell notes. “Too often the irreligious want to eliminate the cause of the suffering, through abortion, euthanasia, or exclude it from sight, leaving our loved ones unvisited in nursing homes.”
“Christians see Christ in everyone who suffers — victims, the sick, the elderly — and are obliged to help,” he states.
“Every person suffers. None escapes all the time. Everyone is confronted with a couple of questions. What should I do in this situation? Why is there so much evil and suffering? And why did this happen to me?” he says.
Whereas atheists and agnostics turn to chance and fatalism to try to explain both suffering and beauty, Christians look elsewhere, he reflects.
“Easter provides the Christian answer to suffering and living,” he says. “They believe that nearly 2000 years ago a young Jew was crucified on a hilltop in Jerusalem, one Friday afternoon, despised and rejected. Everyone saw him die, while a limited number, those with faith, saw him after a miraculous bodily resurrection on the next Sunday.”
“To the dismay of many this was a Messiah, who was not a great monarch like David or Solomon, but Isaiah’s suffering servant, who redeems us, enables us to receive forgiveness and enter into a happy eternity,” he writes.
The only Son of God “did not have an easy run and suffered more than his share,” he states. “Jesus redeemed us and we can redeem our suffering by joining it to His and offering it to God.”
“That is part of the Easter message of the Risen Christ,” he concludes.
Last week Australia’s highest court unanimously acquitted Cardinal Pell of sexual abuse, ordering that his prior convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place.