“Thus I will rend with my teeth and nails the eternal pain that stings my heart.” With these stirring words, Gaetano Cellini engraves his powerful sculpture Humanity Against Evil. Here we see all humanity represented in one man hunched over, exhausted as he wrestles with a mass of marble representing evil. Each man and woman throughout history has felt the power of this combat; Cellini captures the battle raging deep in our hearts, our struggle with pain, with suffering, with evil. We see our own hands grappling with something beyond our power to control, clenching tooth and nail, wanting to let go and yet holding on. The mass of evil threatens to swallow this man—he is on the verge of giving in.
The mystery of evil is the watershed of human life. While it afflicts us all, the way we confront it is by no means the same. I have engraved in my mind the memory of a funeral of a young man no more than twenty-five years old. His death was unexpected and left the whole family shattered. Before such a moment no one remains indifferent. Many turn away in anger or despair. Many look on with caustic irony at those who try to make sense of tragedy. Humanity alone against evil.
Yet, what remains engraved in my memory above all is the face of the father at the funeral mass—an intense stare full of pain fixed on Christ crucified. Carrying the heaviest of crosses, this father discovered the face of our suffering Savior. In the face of the Savior we find our hope and strength. Humanity with God against evil.
Cellini has thus left us on the edge. What is the next scene of this epic battle? Really, that all depends on the choice we make. Will we let go in utter defeat or will we find the redemptive meaning of our suffering united with the cross of Christ? In his apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris, St. John Paul II reminds us that suffering is a call from Christ who does not explain the abstract reasons for suffering, but who says, “Follow me! Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my cross!” (SD 26)
A few days later I met the sorrowful mother who said to me, “It is in moments like these when you know God exists.” This is the answer faith gives to the mystery of evil. We struggle on full of hope in a God who loves us. Like Simon of Cyrene we are pressed into service, carrying a cross belonging to a criminal on his way to Calvary. We did not ask to be here, we would never have chosen this, yet as we look over we encounter the face of God. We are one with his cross and he is one with ours.