I attended a funeral Mass this past week. It was heartbreaking – a man in his 50s struck down suddenly. The first reading was from Job, which seemed appropriate given that, in tragedies like this one, we find ouselves asking as Job did: Why?
But, of course, there is not good answer to the question why.
In his sermon, the priest shared two images. Jesus on the cross, asking his father, “Why have you forsaken me?” And Jesus in the garden, asking his father, “Let this cup pass, but thy will be mine.” In both cases, there is only silence. Jesus gets no answer from his father when he asks why he has forsaken him. And no answer when he asks his father to let the cup pass from him. Only silence.
Only silence. BUT, in that silence, God is present. No answer to the question why, but the solace of the presence of God.
What allows us to go on in the face of suffering we do not understand, is the knowledge that God is with us. The knowledge that the cross we see in our churches (the cross that reminds us of our own suffering, as well as Christ’s) is overtaken by resurrection. The knowledge that the suffering is not the end of the story.
And so, the priest suggested, let us pray not for understanding, but for peace, knowing that God is there is in the silence.