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Jesuit Father Michael Kelly is a media professional with 40 years of experience in writing and reporting, editing and publishing, TV and broadcast radio production in Asia and Australia. For 10 years he led Asia’s leading Church media organization - UCA News. Currently, he is the English language publisher of the respected Jesuit periodical La Civilta Cattolica.
Jesuit Father Michael Kelly

Australia

What is holy about innocent suffering?

Easter Sunday reminds us that God simply does not give up on liberating us no matter how dark and hopeless the situation

Published: April 14, 2022 10:17 AM GMT

Updated: November 24, 2022 05:42 AM GMT

What is holy about innocent suffering?

A resident stands next to a makeshift bed in the basement of a building to protect himself from shelling in Lysychansk in the Luhansk region of Ukraine on April 13. (Photo: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP)

There have been few lead-ups to Easter in my experience more aligned with one of Easter’s central messages — bringing light out of darkness — than Easter 2022.

In Australia, New South Wales Liberal Party premier Dominic Perrottet has called the federal preselection process a “debacle” for the coalition. That is an apt word to describe a lot more than the preselection mess.

Floods in many parts of New South Wales and Queensland, recovery from bush fires and other natural disasters bring unanticipated challenges. Then there are the impacts that come through our television screens as we witness the mindless mayhem of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

I, for one, wake up each day and go straight to the news websites for the latest installment of the horrifying news of what is happening between Russia and Ukraine. Which new innocents are being exposed to the latest iniquities by the bestial Russians?

And that is why I think that it is more than a little appropriate that such events and how we are to understand them come during this aptly if paradoxically named Holy Week.

What is holy about innocent suffering? Nothing as such, of course. But what it does is draw us all immediately closer to the place where we might allow God to have a hand. Our energy and resources are spent, our capacity to overpower the way things are unfolding often against our wishes or intentions is completely exhausted. That’s when God might be able to squeeze into our small world to work a mysterious liberation.

Easter Sunday is the declaration that God remains committed to the promises of faithful love that the whole snakes and ladders of the history of Israel amount to

Easter doesn’t come from or point to the “quick fix” bag of tricks. Quite the opposite. It’s mysterious, drawn-out and usually means accepting a solution that comes as a surprise and one that arrives in forms that are unexpected.

But what Easter is a testament to is that God does arrive. Easter Sunday is the declaration that God remains committed to the promises of faithful love that the whole snakes and ladders of the history of Israel amount to. God simply does not give up on liberating us no matter how dark and hopeless the corner we find ourselves in.

That, for me, is the test that any affirmation of a belief in Jesus Christ and his God has to pass: does it really meet requirements in a world as dark, confused and self-defeating as ours has become?

Assuming we won’t cope with this experience in the customary way we have become used to — denial — how do we reach a point in our own lives and journey where the promised liberation becomes an evident and palpable reality?

There’s only one way really: patient waiting and attentiveness to the movements of the Spirit. We can’t cajole much less force or even anticipate how that waiting will unfold. And a surrender to the mystery in this dark place is almost as intimidating as the very entrapment from which we seek liberation.

But, in my experience, it does come and I take comfort from the prayer that has me ask God for the patience to not only desire and offer myself in such circumstances but also to wait and see the promise brought to fulfillment.

* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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