Friday, September 9, 2016

On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering (Pauline Books and Media)

On February 11, 1984, Pope John Paul II issued an Apostolic Letter entitled On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering. 30 years later, Pauline Books and Media issued an anniversary edition with commentary by Fr. Myles N. Sheehan. The actual letter is divided into the following sections:

1. Introduction
2. The World of Human Suffering
3. The Quest for an Answer to the Question of the Meaning of Suffering
4. Jesus Christ: Suffering Conquered by Love
5. Sharers in the Suffering of Christ
6. The Gospel of Suffering
7. The Good Samaritan
8. Conclusion

Pope John Paul II begins by comparing and contrasting sickness and suffering. He explains, "Suffering is something which is still wider than sickness, more complex and at the same time still more deeply rooted in humanity itself." He then goes on to cite several examples of man suffering in Sacred Scripture. He then elaborates on how the reality of suffering is closely tied to "What is evil?" Section Four focuses on Jesus and His conversation with Nicodemus. God gave us His Son Jesus to provide us with a way of salvation. This salvation is not the opposite of temporal suffering, but eternal suffering by being separated from God in eternity. This hope of salvation "throws a new light upon suffering." The rest of this letter addresses how we can share in Christ's suffering and how we can help others in their suffering, like the good Samaritan.

Like other anniversary editions of Pope John Paul II's words, this book contains the full text and reflection sections at the end of each part. These reflection sections include words to Ponder, a place to Pray, and guidance to Act on. Fr. Sheehan takes these sections very seriously though, not that other anniversary edition commentators didn't. Compared to other commentators, his Ponder sections are much longer and focus heavily on Scripture. He then concludes the Ponder section with both discussion and reflection questions. Also unlike other commentators, his Pray section isn't a personal prayer he wrote, but guidance on what to reflect and pray on. This Apostolic Letter is one that is still relevant 30 years later and the commentary on it is helpful when reading it. I highly recommend it, and I look forward to other Pope John Paul II anniversary editions that Pauline Books and Media will publish.

This book was provided to me for free by Pauline Books and Media in exchange for an honest review.  If you found this review helpful, please click here and hit Yes!