Why O Lord (1987)

Carlo Carretto’s Why O Lord addresses the problem of suffering. He begins by telling the story of his own unfair injury that changed his life. He’d dreamed of being a minister mountain-climber, but a ill-judged medical intervention left one of his legs paralyzed. So that dream morphed into being a desert-dwelling minister. He was able to look back at the injury after 30 years and see it as a gift. He doesn’t doubt God’s care.

I know that [God] is as indispensable to me as life and light. But experience has taught me to suspect that I too am indispensable to him as the fruit of his love (14).

He experiences his pain as giving him insight “into the light, into matter, into laws, into cells” (22).

As a “loving person,” he approaches suffering not from the question of Why is this allowed? But from a placer of looking at the “messianic dream:” “a dream that commandeers a universe of human possibilities and seeks to transfer painful dark, persecuted, bloody reality to a new dimension where all is joy, justice, and peace” (27).

The messianic dream is a proclamation from heaven and earth, a bridge between two banks, a tree on your parched path. Inspiration comes from afar but you are the ones to experience it. You receive a proclamation but it is up to you to meditate on it. It comes from the far side but becomes a reality on your side. I believe this is the way God calls us, educates us, accustoms us to his way of thinking (31).

God wills us to enter his kingdom. We get there through humility, through exodus.

Now to complete the journey…love must be purified and transformed into charity. What does this mean? It is simple. It means imitating Jesus on the road to Jerusalem. Every situation must be reversed. I who have used Jerusalem for my pleasures must sacrifice my pleasures for Jerusalem. I who have made use of others for my amusement must make my life the tool of my fellow men. I who have been so afraid to suffer must accept Calvary with Jesus. Like Jesus. My exodus does not end when I die in my bed, but when I die on the cross of Christ (44).

He says that the ultimate mystery is that God is a crucified God (45). It is a hard teaching to receive; we like winning and being right. But God chose the way of the servant, the way of the executed. The church must get outside of its defense of self, says Carretto, and grasp “that we have been bought at the price of blood and that, as Jesus said, ‘A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends'” (55).

Hell is rejecting this love (56-57). He also points out how Jesus and God would not tell us to turn the other cheek if God was not willing to do the thing. He was willing to be crucified.

Ultimately, Carretto sees suffering as a evil allowed by God for the good, following Augustine. But he does not abandon us in the suffering.

He ends with advice for reducing suffering: love more. This seems counterintuitive. But he offers his own experience/liturgy as an example.

He lights a candle to remind himself how Jesus gives of himself to light the way for others; he participates in an act of love (writing a letter, for example); and he waits for God.

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