Letters from Seminary: Thomas

Even in suffering, Christ is still good news

Published: January 27, 2024

By Quinton Thomas
Diocesan Seminarian

Over this past Christmas break, I went with a couple of other seminarians on a pilgrimage to France. I was shocked by how many people there were at the Masses — and how many young families and 20-somethings!

I met several priests, and after telling them I was from Arkansas, several asked me the same question about our state: Are there Christians there?

I couldn’t help imagining that this must have been what it was like for missionaries to meet in hiding during the days of persecution, when you couldn’t take Christianity for granted.

We are convinced that even in the cases of extreme, real-world suffering, Christ is still good news. Then, Christ is especially good news.

They seemed to say, “Has your land received the Gospel yet? Do your people follow Christ or some other god?”

The lay folks I talked to exhibited the same strange quality. I got the impression that, for them, to be a Christian meant to be an evangelizer, someone who has received the good news and tells it to others.

I think all Christians are joyful. A person in possession of the good news cannot fail to have joy. This points out to us a couple of truths.

First, Christianity without joy is a counterfeit Christianity — it looks similar but isn’t the real thing — simply because the legalism and defeatism we are prone to are driven out by joy.

Second, Christ is good news for all problems, including ones that aren’t explicitly religious. When Jesus comforted Lazarus’ sister, Mary, she thought Jesus was telling her to set her hopes on the resurrection of the last day. But Jesus corrected her.

He said he himself is the resurrection and that his faithful will never die. He shows Mary a cause for joy greater than her grief. It takes a miracle for her to see what was already true: with Jesus, there is always cause for joy.

While it’s pretty clear what God has to say in the confessional — what does he say, what could he say, at the ER? Or in divorce court? In bankruptcy? Or at war?

We are convinced that even in the cases of extreme, real-world suffering, Christ is still good news. Then, Christ is especially good news.

God is not unaware of the pain; we’re not expected to ignore suffering or pretend to be happy. Actually, the exact opposite is true: The Father knows our sufferings more acutely than we do. And for that reason, he answers the sufferings in our lives by giving us his Son.

God became man, suffered and died with us; love has already conquered all these things, and we can never be separated from him. This is good news that inspires in all who receive it a deep joy, deeper than any suffering.

While in France, we went to see Lisieux, the home of St. Thérèse. She was full of that joy for one reason: she trusted. She was confident that God is always using our situations to bring about our good, even as difficult as that can be to believe at times.

Learning from her, we pray for miracles, of course, but we don’t set our hope on them or merely on the world to come. God is good, so we can trust the Father, saying, “Thy will be done.”

We can surrender and peaceably accept our fate as providence from the hand of God who loves us. This is the good news — the joy we need.