Peace and Joy
By Simone Rizkallah
This is the seventh of a series of seven meditations examining the Christian meaning of suffering according to the thought of Pope St. John Paul II in his 1984 apostolic letter “Salvifici Doloris.”
The narrative of a Christian’s life takes the shape of the life of Christ in the paschal mystery: Good Friday, Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday. 2023 was certainly a “Good Friday” year. Armenia, the world’s first nation to declare the Christian faith its official state religion in 301 A.D., witnessed the ethnic and religious cleansing of 120,000 men, women and children in a region in the Near East called the Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh. The world remains largely unaware and indifferent to this genocide of Armenian Christians. We also saw the brutality of the Hamas attack in Israel on Oct. 7 – Israel’s “9/11” so to speak – as well as a wave of anti-Jewish protests and attacks in the United States and throughout the world in a climate which was already increasing in its anti-Jewish incidents.
In part six of this series, we examined our own country’s epidemic of loneliness and the growing rates of existential orphanhood, which has led and is also the root of many, if not all, of the demonic manifestations that live under the umbrella of the rotten fruit of a culture that is “woke.” With the overwhelm of all these cultural problems as well as our own personal crosses, how are we to proceed? With not only a hope that resides in “the world to come,” but here and now? In other words, what are the conditions that dispose one to experience not only peace but also joy in this perennially sad state of the world?
Pope St. John Paul II writes in the concluding meditations of his great document on suffering, quoting an earlier document from the Second Vatican Council: Man cannot “fully find himself” except through a sincere gift of himself. (Par. 28) His papal biographer, George Weigel, has noted that this was the Pope’s most often quoted line in his writings and speeches.
There is a peace that comes from the acknowledgement that the idols of this world – wealth, pleasure, power and honor – cannot and do not satisfy. To continue to chase after these idols causes an insatiable restlessness at the very least and at the very worst an idolatry which leads to addiction. We know it when we see it. Perhaps we see it in ourselves. But what about joy? This too comes from a “sincere gift of self.” Peace comes from the recognition that what is finite cannot satisfy what is infinite, namely, the human heart. Joy comes from an actual experience of the infinite. From the experience of love – in other words, from being a “Good Samaritan.”
John Paul II continues: A Good Samaritan is the person capable of exactly such a gift of self. We are not allowed to “pass by on the other side” indifferently; we must stop beside him. Everyone who stops beside the suffering of another person, whatever form it may take, is a Good Samaritan. (Par 28.) Father Luigi Giussani explains this spiritual reality in his text, “The Risk of Education”: “Other people are to be ‘hosted’ within ourselves. Hospitality is making another person a part of our own living. Bear in mind that hospitality is the greatest possible sacrifice after that of giving one’s own life. For this reason, we rarely know how to truly welcome and host others, and do not even know how to welcome ourselves. To make others a part of our own life is the true imitation of Christ, who welcomed us thoroughly into His life that He made us into parts of His body. The mystery of Christ’s body is the mystery of our body being hosted within His.”
In this way, we can experience here on earth “Easter Sunday” moments and “through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful.” (Par 31.)
Peace and joy, to all.
Simone Rizkallah is the director of program growth at Endow Groups, a Catholic women’s apostolate that calls women together to study important documents of the Catholic Church. Endow exists to cultivate the intellectual life of women to unleash the power of the feminine genius in the world.
For more information visit www.endowgroups.org/study-guide-on-the-christian-meaning-of-suffering-salvifici-doloris/.