LONDON, MARCH 21, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said bewilderment in the face of a seeming absence of God is common and today is the "feast day" of those who suffer this anguish.
The archbishop of Westminster proposed this idea when he offered a reflection for Good Friday on BBC Radio's "Thought for the Day."
The cardinal began by noting that he is puzzled by the professed absolute certainty of those who "regard religion as something completely absurd."
"What is much closer to the believers I know and meet is that they have a far more humble attitude to the mystery of life and they often admit to periods of doubt about their faith in God and of his care for creation," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said. "Faith is often lived in darkness."
The English prelate recalled the darkness he witnessed on a recent trip to Zimbabwe.
"I was [ ] quite appalled and shocked by the conditions in which the vast majority of people live," he lamented. "There is dire poverty and many suffer from disease and lack of food. In our visit we met many people living with AIDS; some of them orphans struggling to bring up their younger brothers and sisters.
"On a visit to a parish near Harare, I met the local priest. Outside his house people were lying down on the ground, waiting and hoping for some food. There were thousands more in the shanty town surrounding the parish.
"'Sometimes I wonder,' said the parish priest, 'where God is in all of this?' The sense of bewilderment at this seeming absence of God amid the miseries, trials and suffering of so many, is common to many people; and today, if you like, is their feast day."
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said that the bewildered can take Good Friday as their feast day because "Christ had that same sense of total abandonment as he hung upon the cross. He said, as he died, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' Such a cry rings down the ages and into the hearts and minds of so many today.
"It is right, therefore, that Christians should co-agonize with Christ in his acute pain and desolation on this Good Friday."
However, the cardinal affirmed, the cross is also where Christ's glory was revealed.
The prelate explained, "Jesus died in utter agony but also with total acceptance of the will of his Father: 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit,' he said. Such trust and belief is hard to understand, but it lies at the heart of what faith is about."
The cardinal thus encouraged listeners to be humble in their suffering and turn to prayer.
"While the pain of those Zimbabweans appeared out of the ordinary, we all suffer in different ways in our lives," he acknowledged. "Suffering and doubt is part of what it is to be human, but Jesus rising from the dead shows us that [it] is not the end of the story.
"But today it is enough to be humble and to share that sense of pain and desolation, wherever we know it to be and which many of us experience from time to time and pray that the darkness and despair will turn to hope and to light."