By Melissa Hanks
Be careful! How many parents have yelled that in the past several weeks, as our children go running off with abandon without concern for their safety. We worry about taking them into the doctor during this time. And then the inevitable happens: they take a tumble and cut their face; they fall off their bike. So now, you are taking them in for medical help, because they are hurting. Often times, that help feels initially like pain. Washing the injury clean, getting a shot with numbing medication, even the pull of the suture feels foreign. How can it be for our good? How can this pain have a good outcome?
People are feeling so much pain and fear today. Some have been directly affected by the Coronavirus, others by unemployment. They fear their family becoming ill, or fear job and income loss. There are some who are afraid of food supply collapse. People fear government encroachment. Is a precedent being set? We feel starved of our sacraments, or are awaiting sacraments not yet received — with regard to RCIA candidates, first communicants, confirmation candidates, and engaged couples.
Catholics are longing to be reunited with not only the Body of Christ, but Christ Himself. Many are in emotional pain for one reason or another. Our circumstances are hard. There are many different variations of this hard, but the difficulty doesn’t go away.
In the Bible, the phrase “Be not afraid” occurs a multitude of times. It is almost as if God knew we were a fearful people. We cower and seek refuge. We cry out for help, and hopefully for God’s loving hand. In two separate instances lately, I witnessed our shepherds exhorting us to turn to Sacred Scripture because Christ is fully present in those pages. Like our children, I didn’t heed those words because I WAS praying; I was keeping faith; my novenas should suffice, right?
Funnily enough, a dear friend reminded me by referring me to a verse when I mentioned my struggles with our current life. “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:35-36) Balm to my soul. Don’t I feel harassed and helpless? Do you? Does Christ not also have compassion on each of us?
Like our children, we are hurting, and sometimes we need to use that redemptive suffering for good. Knowing that like the shot of anesthetic, the pain caused also brings relief. That the awkward pull of the suture will ultimately bring healing.
Chastened, I decided to follow prior directions, and opened the readings for that day on my phone…and it spoke. “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety. You are my rock and my fortress; for your name’s sake you will lead and guide me.” (Psalm 31) Hit upside the head. God telling me to cling to Him like my child clings to me while receiving that shot, those stitches. He will work my pain for good. Trust the process. It’s okay to cry, but believe that the Holy Spirit is doing work in each of us to bring about good.
And just when I didn’t think God could reach me anymore, I turned my eyes to the Gospel.
So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” –John 6:30-33
I drop my phone and sigh loud enough to catch my husband’s attention. “What is wrong? What did you just read?!” Through tears, I respond, “Just the Gospel.” Now he looks at me quizzically, for what could I have read in the Gospel to cause my reaction?! I’m obviously very upset. I pick up my phone and read it again, aloud, with a cracking voice,
So they said to him, “What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Then Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” –John 6: 30-35
And as I read, I realized suddenly, maybe this was meant to be consoling. For when I started that passage, all I could feel was grief over my thirst for our Holy Eucharist; the incredible loss. But as I reread those words, I now saw,
They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” –John 6:34-35
God speaks to us when we listen, and Jesus is ever present in the Scripture. We need to avail ourselves to this grace, because for now, this is our rock, our fortress. We have not been abandoned. Unite your pain with Christ’s own sufferings. We are so truly blessed. Let us all commend our spirit into the hands of the Lord, for He alone has the power to save us.
Christ, have mercy on us! Blessed Mary, pray for us! St. Joseph, pray for us!