This is what we Christians relive during Holy Week.. In an interview with Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, reported in the "Osservatore Romano"The meaning of suffering in God comes to light.
God who suffers
Modern man seems to have no need to justify himself before God, and sometimes even dares to ask God to justify himself in the face of the evils of the world. Man has lost the sensibility of his own sins, believes himself to be righteous, and feels no need of any salvation. Or at least he has the feeling that God cannot let most of humanity be lost.
But On the other hand, one feels the need for God's mercy and gentleness. This was experienced by Faustina Kowalska and John Paul II, who affirms that the mercy is the only thing that is truly effective against evil. "In the harshness of the technified world in which feelings no longer count for anything.notes Pope Ratzinger, however, it increases the expectation of a saving love that is freely given"..
It is in this framework that the relationship between God the Father and his Son is posed. It is not useful to insist on justice in an absolute or cruel sense, with the argument that the Son obeys the Father and in obeying accepts the cruel demand of justice.
Benedict XVI explains: "When the Son in the Garden of Olives struggles against the will of the Father, it is not about the fact that he must accept a cruel disposition of God, but it is about drawing humanity into the will of God." . On the relationship between the two wills of the Father and the Son, see the book by J. Ratzinger, Jesus of Nazareth, vol. 1, especially chapter 6.
The meaning of the Cross
But then, Pope Emeritus wonders, what is the point of the cross?
And he responds in this way: let us keep in mind the filthy and enormous quantity of evil, of violence and lies, of hatred, cruelty and arrogance that inundate the whole world. The tradition of the Old Testament hoped in an infinite love that could overcome the evil and suffering of the world. Christ brings us, especially in his suffering, that love and that victory. The question arises as to whether and in what sense this implies suffering in God the Father.
In his argument, Benedict XVI reproduces a text by Henri De Lubac. He first presents the love of Christ that leads him to suffer for us: "The Redeemer entered the world out of compassion for the human race. He took upon Himself our sufferings long before He was crucified; indeed, even before He lowered Himself to assume our flesh: if He had not experienced them before, He would not have become part of our human life. And what was this suffering that He endured beforehand for us? It was the passion of love"..
Even though it is not only about the suffering of Christthe Son of God made man, whom we represent in the figures of the Lent and Easter ; but De Lubac wonders: "But the Father himself, the God of the universe, the one who is superabundant in long-suffering, patience, mercy and compassion, does he not also suffer in a certain sense?".
Here he quotes a biblical passage: "The Lord thy God hath put on thy garments as he that carrieth his son." (Deut. 1:31). "God -De Lubac comments. He takes upon Himself our garments as the Son of God takes upon Himself our sufferings. The Father Himself is not without passions! If He is invoked, then He knows mercy and compassion. He feels a suffering of love.".
At this point Benedict XVI intervenes, evoking devotions from his homeland and images of Christian art.
"In some areas of Germany there was a very moving devotion that contemplated the Not Gottes ('the destitution of God'). To me it evokes an impressive image that represents the suffering Father, who as Father participates interiorly in the sufferings of the Son. And also the image of the 'throne of grace' is part of this devotion: the The Father holds the cross and the crucified one, bends lovingly over him and, on the other hand, is, so to speak, together with him on the cross. Thus in a grandiose and pure way we see there what the mercy of God and the participation of God in the suffering of man mean.".
Only love conquers evil
Then deduce: "It is not a question of cruel justice, nor of the fanaticism of the Father, but of the truth and reality of creation: of the true and intimate overcoming of evil which, in the last analysis, can only be realized in the suffering of love.".
Indeed, from the throne of grace, which is the Cross of Jesus, descends the love of God that cleanses the evil poured out by man upon the world through the centuries. That love which the Father together with the Son manifested through the suffering of the cross and which flows forth in mercy.
In the Year of the mercyPope Francis has already explained the meaning of Holy Week.
"If God has shown us his supreme love in the death of Jesus, then we too, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, can and should love one another."
On Holy Thursday, Jesus institutes the Eucharistas love that anticipates the Cross and becomes service, especially for the weakest.
"Good Friday is the culminating moment of love. The death of Jesus, who on the cross abandons himself to the Father to offer salvation to the whole world, expresses love given to the end, without end. A love that seeks to embrace everyone, excluding no one. A love that extends to every time and every place: an inexhaustible source of salvation to which each one of us sinners can come." (General Audience, 23-III-206).
Such is the love of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that will be given at Pentecost to the action of grace in the world.
Francisco concludes: "If God has shown us his supreme love in the death of Jesus, then we too, regenerated by the Holy Spirit, can and should love one another.". Then, Holy Saturday is the day of God's silence.waiting for love for the abandoned.
As a whole, and this is what we celebrate during Holy Week, "it is all a great mystery of love and mercy." who comes to meet us to lead us to the Resurrection. A love and mercy that can change us, provided that we accept it, both in the confession of our sins and in the exercise of the works of mercy..
Professor of Pastoral Theology
Faculty of Theology
University of Navarra
Published in "Church and new evangelization".