The children were all gathered in the ‘center for street children’ near the Manila Cathedral when the Pope just finished a mass, during which he challenged bishops and priests to be true pastors and imitate Christ and serve the poor.
He went into their homes where he greeted children as he did at his meeting with the children and youth at the University of Santo Tomas. During his meeting with families at the Mall of Asia, he repeated one important message: “protect your children.” He is the Pope that has zero tolerance for any child abuser, especially among the clergy.
The one striking question that arose during his meeting with the children and youth at the University was when an 11-year old broke down in tears while reading a welcome message and asked the Pope, “Why does God allow children to suffer and so few people are helping them?” That’s a question I have asked God many times myself and my faith was challenged when I got no clear answer.
I look on all the thousands of street kids, the children in brothels and sex bars, those in jails and in jeopardy from disease and malnutrition and abuse, and ponder human nature, and ask why it is still so when the world has never been as rich and better off than ever in history.
Pope Francis had no answer either; he did not try to mumble some incomprehensible theological mumbo jumbo to explain away the tough question that troubles reflective Christians everywhere.
He replied: “She is the only one who has put a question for which there is no answer and she wasn’t even able to express it in words, but in tears.”
But looking for answers to the abuse, hardship and poverty that cause hundreds of thousands of children to suffer is my constant quest.
I believe that God does not allow anybody to suffer.
St. John says in his gospel that God is love, meaning that pure spiritual love is the force and power of eternal goodness. That excludes totally any possibility of such love allowing or tolerating suffering. Otherwise it would be an absurd contradiction.
Humans are invited and challenged to try to have love that is selfless, kind, understanding and caring of others. It is the love that is ready to lay down one’s life itself for the love of a friend or humanity.
It is based on sharing , self-giving and putting aside one’s desires for self gratification, power, unnecessary wealth and surplus possessions. It is a kind of love that cannot be experienced when we have an excess of material things and possessions.
That great happiness is indescribable it has to be experienced and be felt and understood in some small way. It’s being in contact with “eternal goodness and love.” It’s the doorway to being in and of the Kingdom.
St. Francis and many others to the present day have found pure joy and happiness when they were able to cast off or give away unnecessary self-serving possessions and embrace a life of service to others. For many it may mean giving up a self-image of being a superior human being, one who is more powerfully dominant and influential that most others. That’s a delusion; we can be the slave of money and possessions and weakened by our desire for it.
Money is a mere material thing, it can have power over us and subjugate our true self and stifle our goodness and our ability to love others. So the saying “all the money in the world cant buy happiness” is partially true. Its possession may not buy spiritual happiness for us but can bring happiness to others when it is used wisely and successfully to alleviate poverty and social injustice. If we do this we let go of “possessiveness” and can be free and available to be loved and embraced by eternal goodness and happiness.
The suffering of humanity and children is because of the absence of this love and goodness. The disposition of material things is determined by the free choice of the individual or the group. Poverty and suffering is present when love is absent. So human suffering is made and caused mostly by other humans and is directly connected to the free choice of other humans. The answer to the child’s question lies in the hands of the rich and the powerful.