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And so here it is, my creation, and me. What now? No longer alone, someone separate from me who yet is me. Will that alleviate loneliness? The loneliness of the sufferer? The loneliness that Christ Himself underwent on the Cross when all had turned away from Him, even Peter His Rock, even God His Father: “My God, My God why hath Thou forsaken me?” The gray aloneness, the horrific nothing, no one, they can listen but even then they are all too willing to offer advice.
You must have done something they will say. It is your behavior. You enticed him on. ARGGHHHH! Listen to me and share my suffering. Wow, I guess Christ thought that too…
The room had gotten so quiet. Even Maria was quiet. Outside was grey and cloudy. Inside Father Bleary, who kept every other bank of florescent lights off, for some reason, moved slowly in the semi-gloom, up and down the rows of silent, afraid children, at the chairs fixed to their desks, unmoving, waiting to see what he was going to say.
“What about the suffering of the innocents?” he repeated into the silence. He slowed as he got near me. “Why has God let us on earth be hurt? Why has Jesus broken His Promise? We are being hurt, some of us in this very room. Why?” He stopped above me. His words just hung there in the air, in the grey. The room was tense, wanting something, anticipating something, some relief of this tension, four graders holding their breath, a priest asking the questions that no one else would even ask, staying away from the ugly truths.
“There is no solution for us to the suffering of the innocents,” he finally said, gently, “none at all.” And the room let out a collective breath, not so much at the answer but at the fact he had said something, anything. But as the meaning of his statement came clear, as it penetrated our young minds, our tension lessened but we started to get confused. How could a priest say this? What is he trying to do?
He went on. “You know, some people think the worst part of suffering is the loneliness. Some people who suffer can’t tell anyone, or if they do, they aren’t believed, or, if they do, they are believed, but the people they tell think it’s their fault, that the sufferer cause the suffering, or the people they tell simply run away.” And his hand fell on my shoulder, briefly as if it was just a casual touch, and I could tell, I could feel, that Maria noticed it.
“Isn’t that what happened to Jesus? On the cross? Didn’t everyone run away, even Peter? Only a week earlier He was being greeted as king of the world, riding into Jerusalem people singing Hosannas to Him, praise echoing in his ears, but behind the scenes people were working to bring him down, to kill him. Probably some of those same people who were in the crowd praising him were planning to kill him.”
And we went silent again.
“Everyone had run away from Him. No one listening.” He went up to the front of the room and turned around. “Even his Father, his God. God running away from God. My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
“Haven’t we felt that? Just like Jesus? When we, the innocents, suffer?”
His words hung there in the air, we were holding our breath again, give us an answer Father we silently pleaded, relieve our tension, something anything, make it simply, make it understandable.
“There is no reason we can understand for the innocents to suffer,” he finally said. “No reason even Jesus could understand. My God, he cried out. Why have you given up on me? Why have you forsaken me? Suffering can be so great. It can destroy you.”
He looked all around now. Everyone was fixed on him.
“But it won’t,” he said. “It won’t.” And we breathed again. “Because like Jesus, you can still call on God. You can still say God, why am I suffering. And remember we studied Job last fall, and Job suffered too, and he called on God too, and God’s answer there was you don’t understand Job, you don’t understand me, or what I am, or what is happening to you.”
“We know a little more about how Jesus suffered, and we know he was God, and even God suffered on this Earth, on His Earth. He suffered, died and was buried. And He was alone. Even God was alone and I think aloneness makes suffering worse, much much worse.“
The bell rang but none of us wanted to leave. We wanted a resolution, a tidy resolution, something to send us home feeling good, but Father Bleary just turned to his desk to his books and started tidying them up, ignoring us.
We slowly got up and got our things.
“One more thing,” he said suddenly, and his words rang out in the silence and gloom and everyone stopped moving, hopeful this was the resolution. “Jesus said My God, my God. He knew God was still there. Even though God was silent. He still had faith. Even though God wasn’t answering. And that is the only solution I can give to you. All of you. Keep your faith. God is there. Keep your faith,” he repeated one more time looking at me again, and we all left.
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