The Father's grief

Question: Should we more fully realize that God the Father suffered grief and sorrow at the crucifixion of his Son?

Robert Bonsignore, Brooklyn, New York

Answer: To suffer sorrow and grief or other emotions does not pertain to the divine nature. Although the Scriptures do speak of God as being angry or pleased, jealous or exacting vengeance, etc., these are said by way of analogy and speak to God’s determination to set things right. God the Father certainly does love his Son and did “care” what was happening to him on the cross, but not in the emotionally swooning ways we often experience love or care about what is happening.

To some, especially today, speaking of God as without emotions makes him seem distant, even monstrous. We live in times that emphasize emotions and see them as a sign of “authenticity.” Previous ages tended more to distrust emotions and insist that they be under the authority of reason. Today we also think of loving and caring as essentially emotional, rather than as essentially willful. St. Thomas Aquinas, in contrast to our emotive times, spoke of love as “willing the good of the other.”

Even in our human condition, it is possible for us to oppose injustice and care about what is happening to other people without a lot of strong emotion. We can note injustice, commit ourselves to oppose it and act to end it, we can serenely refuse to cooperate in it and so forth. Thus, while emotions often accompany our perception of the unjust suffering of others, it does not necessarily follow that we do not “care” if our emotions are not highly elevated.

God’s “grief” at his Son’s crucifixion is surely his opposition to the pride and injustice which brought it about, and his determination to defeat pride by this very act of humility and obedience shown by his Son. How the Father experienced this “internally” is mysterious to us, but ought not be equated with human emotions that do not pertain to the divine nature.

Active intercession?

Question: Are the saints in heaven active in the affairs of Earth?

Robert Bonsignore, Brooklyn, New York

Answer: Yes, we have a lot of evidence for that. But exactly how and to what extent they are aware and active is not fully known to us.

It seems unlikely that the saints can merely look down and watch us as though they were watching a movie, or that they can know our inmost thoughts. Such things are probably beyond their capacity and might even be considered intrusive of our privacy.

It seems safer to assume that the saints are aware of our needs and condition to the degree that God reveals this to them. Thus, if I am asking St. Anthony to pray for me, his capacity to hear my request is facilitated by the Lord and due to the membership both St. Anthony and I have in the Body of Christ. By analogy, the two members of my body that I call my hands can interact by the fact they are coordinated through my head. Jesus is the Head of the Body, the Church and everything in his Body is under his authority and coordinated by him, including the awareness and communion of various members of the body with each other.

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Thus, the saints are aware of and active in the affairs of earth in and to the degree that the Lord reveals it to them and facilitates their involvement.

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to msgrpope@osv.com.