There’s an important caution in LF 57, namely that faith does not give all the answers to the turmoil of mortal life.
57. 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 our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for 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 12:2).
The ministry of presence: sometimes this is all a believer can offer to those who are in pain. The human urge to do something, perhaps, is an instinct that we must overcome with trust. Granted, it is hard to trust a God, sometimes, who seems absent. Perhaps our response to that is to remain in God’s presence, an insistent, nagging voice asking him to do something. If nothing else, to bring calm and peace to hearts in trouble.
Christian believers can bring hope to the world:
Suffering reminds us that faith’s service to the common good is always one of hope — a hope which looks ever ahead in the knowledge that only from God, from the future which comes from the risen Jesus, can our society find solid and lasting foundations. In this sense faith is linked to hope, for even if our dwelling place here below is wasting away, we have an eternal dwelling place which God has already prepared in Christ, in his body (cf. 2 Cor 4:16-5:5). The dynamic of faith, hope and charity (cf. 1 Th 1:3; 1 Cor 13:13) thus leads us to embrace the concerns of all men and women on our journey towards that city “whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10), for “hope does not disappoint” (Rom 5:5).
Why do we hope? Sometimes I’m not sure of the answer to that myself. But I have experiences in which my hope was later validated. The companionship of others involves telling those stories when appropriate. Sometimes we’re just reminding ourselves of what God has done for us in the past. That’s one reason why our own stories belong in our active memory, as well as the witness of saints and the narratives of the Bible.
In union with faith and charity, hope propels us towards a sure future, set against a different horizon with regard to the illusory enticements of the idols of this world yet granting new momentum and strength to our daily lives. Let us refuse to be robbed of hope, or to allow our hope to be dimmed by facile answers and solutions which block our progress, “fragmenting” time and changing it into space. Time is always much greater than space. Space hardens processes, whereas time propels towards the future and encourages us to go forward in hope.
An interesting observation about time and space. I need to ponder this a bit more.
What do you readers think?