Here is Fr. Stephen’s homily for last Sunday:
Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ. Today’s short second Reading comes from the Epistle to the Romans and is an example of the brilliance of St. Paul as a wordsmith. Yet we hear these words so often at funerals, that there is a sense in which we no longer tune in as we might if we were hearing this passage for the first time. The text is an expression of total confidence in the love of Jesus Christ that surrounds us even when we are beset with misfortune.
Do we believe this when we or those around us are touched by tragedy or extreme distress? When disaster strikes it can undermine our entire faith.
Indeed, if God does love us, why does he let these things happen? This question touches the very heart of our belief and trust in the existence of God and his eternal goodness.
When we are in a rational state of mind you and I know with complete confidence that God most certainly reigns and is with us, or we would not be in church today. Creation speaks of him all day, every day. The universe with its beauty, its wonder, its science and reason confirms that he creates and sustains all life.
And we know him to be a personal God, because of all the innumerable times and ways in which he has acted and touched us in our own lives.
Why, then, does he permit the existence of evil? Evil can be defined as the absence of God. A loving God is a God of freedom, who never forces Himself upon us. So he must give us the option to choose the ways that are not his ways.
Suffering is different. Suffering can be the prelude to much that is good in this world, like childbirth, or the sacrifice of time or energy on behalf of others.
Creating a work of culture can be a journey of suffering. Ask any author or painter. Suffering and pain can be a lesson to us; they can stem our pride and pull us back from taking the wrong path. Touching a hot iron hurts and we withdraw before we do ourselves much harm.
Pain can also help us to understand the suffering of others and make us more compassionate. God does not just allow suffering to be a purely negative and destructive force.
He uses it to teach us.
When we are suffering, when disaster strikes, then we remember that our God is himself a suffering God. He redeemed us and restored our immortality not by a massive show of power – indeed, quite the opposite. He conquered the world on that Good Friday afternoon through intolerable suffering, pain, and blood. He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, thereby making it possible for us to do the same. The love of God is stronger than evil; stronger than pain; stronger than all types of suffering.
John 16.33 ‘Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’
‘Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes, or being threatened or attacked.’