"What a strange, bizarre universe it is that produces man, a creature who among all others is the only one who can reflect upon his own death...a creature with a hunger for life as well as the certain knowledge that life will end. It is not fair! The light should never go out! Do not go gently into the night but rage, rage against the dying of the light." So observed the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas.
"Life is unfair", complained the psalmist, "The good suffer and the evil prosper."
And all of us have our share of shattered dreams, headaches, frustrations, growing old... and all of this just to get to the day we die.
Even Jesus did not bring with him an explanation of the unfairness of life. Nor did he offer a rationale for our suffering. He did not say that if we listened to him we would understand the great mysteries of evil, suffering and death that have such a clammy grip on human existence.
No, Jesus simply came to tell us that God loves us and that his love is stronger than evil, suffering and death.
We catch a glimpse of this transcendent quality of divine love when, from time to time, apparently useless suffering seems to be the natural prelude to significant happiness and growth. From the pain of childbirth comes the joy of new life. From the sharing of adversity comes a closer friendship, a deeper trust. From costly mistakes comes priceless learning.
Now all of this is not by way of explanation; it is intended to provide just a glimpse, a hint as to the mysterious relationship between suffering, evil, sacrifice and love.
The parables of Jesus are filled with paradoxical examples of this kind, which once again illustrate the overriding power of God's love. We find a good example at the beginning of the fifteenth chapter of John's Gospel. The grape farmer loves his vines. He expends energy and concern in planting, nourishing and harvesting.
But the same loving farmer trims his vines, does violence to them... cuts them! He does so because from this will come new and stronger growth as well as sweeter fruit. The lesson of the parable? It is that God loves us, that life results from that love and that much of the suffering in that life will, some day, find its value and meaning within the intentions of the Divine Lover.
What the Gospel is revealing to us and what Dylan Thomas seemed to miss, despite the fact that it is evident in even the most cursory reading of the lives of the saints, is that those who bear the unfairness and the suffering of life with faith, confidence, courage, hopefulness and generosity and do so without imposing their suffering on others, do indeed become better, more authentic human beings.
It seems that, in a manner of speaking, one dies on one's own cross in order that one might rise on one's own Easter.