By TAMI QUIGLEY
“Violence is one component in the larger component of evil, particularly suffering,” said Father David Kozak, presenting “The Problem of Evil: Finding God in Violence” at Theology on Tap Nov. 21 at Viva Bistro and Lounge, Reading.
Father Kozak is assistant pastor of St. Peter the Apostle, Reading.
Theology on Tap is a young adult speaker series sponsored by the diocesan Office of Youth, Young Adult and Family Ministry (OYYAFM) for married and single young adults, scheduled for the third Monday of every month at various locations in the diocese.
It is designed to allow young adults to come together in a comfortable and relaxed setting to share community, learn more about their faith and discuss faith topics relevant to their life experiences. It originated in the Archdiocese of Chicago, Ill.
Alexa Doncsecz, assistant coordinator of OYYAFM, welcomed those gathered. Also attending were Sue Matour, director of OYYAFM; and Father Stephan Isaac, assistant pastor of St. Ignatius Loyola, Sinking Spring.
In his presentation, Father Kozak at times cited the writings of St. Teresa of Calcutta and Servant of God Dorothy Day.
Day, who died in 1980, was a Brooklyn-born journalist, social activist and devout Catholic convert. In the 1930s she worked closely with fellow activist Peter Maurin to establish the Catholic Worker movement, a nonviolent, pacifist movement that continues to combine direct aid for the poor and homeless with nonviolent, direct action on their behalf.
Day was proposed for sainthood by the Claretian Missionaries in 1983. Blessed Pope John Paul II gave the Archdiocese of New York permission to open Day’s cause for sainthood in March 2000, making her a “Servant of God” in the eyes of the Catholic Church.
Father Kozak noted Day went through a conversion at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
He recalled in 1948, Day had written “It’s hard to reconcile one’s self to such suffering,” and encouraged people to see this suffering “In the light of God’s love.”
“When you come up against the reality of suffering, it’s not theodicy – trying to justify God’s way to humans,” Father Kozak said.
“You can’t get in God’s head and explain why there’s suffering. You don’t have the right to speculate unless you’ve experienced it.
“You run up against a brick wall when you try to fathom evil and suffering. You can’t turn to philosophers. All you can turn toward is God’s revelation.”
Father Kozak said the Christian response to suffering is not philosophical theodicy, that is justifying the ways of God to man’s limited intellect. Nor, he said, is it “facile, Pollyannaish,” explaining away of suffering as “all for the best” or “God’s will.”
“Our discourse about the subject of suffering and pain must come from an experiential witness that is not detached from the suffering person,” Father Kozak said. “What matters is not the intellectual construct or ‘issue’ of justifying the existence of suffering. The important issue is the person who is suffering.”
Father Kozak said Day and the Catholic Worker’s intellectual roots are in the philosophical school of Emmanuel Mounier through Maurin.
“It’s not philosophical speculation but faith reflection on the Word of God,” he said.
Father Kozak said the gradual maturing of our view of evil and suffering from being seen as a punishment is seen through the Book of Job’s deeper understanding of the reality of suffering just persons.
“Some people of faith believe evil and punishment come about because of our sins. That’s a very distorted view of God with a thunderbolt handing out punishment,” Father Kozak said, adding we have free will to choose what roads we take in life.
Father Kozak spoke of the “poetry of dialogue” between Job and God. Job, he said, shakes his fist at God and says God can’t punish him for his sins because he’s a good person. “It’s OK to shake your fist at God, he has thick skin. He’s not going to respond with a thunderbolt.”
“God says it’s not for Job to question him, not like an angry parent, but more like, ‘Trust me and understand,’” Father Kozak said. Job repents and gets his family and home back.
Father Kozak said the full maturity of Hebrew scripture’s understanding of suffering is in Isaiah’s “Songs of the Suffering Servant” that we read every Good Friday.
“Suffering endured out of love is the key to the lock of our Christian message,” Father Kozak said.
“It’s the cross of Jesus as the fullness of God’s revelation regarding pain, loss and suffering.
“The disciple of Jesus is to take up his or her own cross. Following him implies walking the Way of the Cross, leading to salvation.”
Father Kozak said Jesus tells us the suffering of people is not the result of them being sinners.
“The Passion shows us suffering can be redemptive.”
Father Kozak said in his ministry in Reading he points to the cross when speaking with people who are suffering, and says, “Here’s somebody walking beside you.”
“I’m edified by groups, including youth groups, from suburban Reading parishes – like St. Ignatius – coming to serve at the Kennedy House Soup Kitchen,” Father Kozak said.
St. Teresa of Calcutta, he said, had many references to seeing Christ in the poorest and the most helpless.
“Spiritual suffering is the darkness of faith. For maybe 20 years Mother Teresa lived ‘the dark night of the soul’ and didn’t think a loving, compassionate God was by her side,” Father Kozak said. “But this strengthened her commitment to serve the poorest of the poor.
“Mother Teresa said our own suffering is a sharing of the passion of Christ. Without suffering our work would be just social work, which is good, but not part of the work of Jesus Christ.”
Theology on Tap events are free of charge. Food and beverage can be ordered from the menu at the event site. For more information, visit www.allentowndiocese.org/oyyam or email firstname.lastname@example.org.