Waiting for a Savior
I remember when my son was a baby, and bedtime was a battle. The moment I sat with him in the rocking chair, he pushed his little legs against my body, arched his back, and wailed. He resisted sleep with everything he had. Eventually, as I persevered in rocking and soothing him, I could feel his little body melting, slowly surrendering… finally giving in. I would hold him for a while as he peacefully slept and wonder why was he fighting this? What kept him from surrendering to the peace and comfort of sleep? Then I realized how I also fight against things that are good for me. I resist change when it means giving up something I’ve grown attached to for the fleeting comfort it brings. Why do we do these things?
Ah, the struggle! Self-preservation mode kicks in when we are in danger or perceive that we will lose something we value if we give in. The human heart rebels. The mind gets confused; We misidentify our enemy. Instead of fighting against sin and vice, we resist the medicine we need. To surrender means giving up the fight and letting the other side win. Whether or not this is good depends on whether the one we are fighting is for or against us. If we are defending ourselves or others against an enemy, then putting up a fight is a good thing. But what about when we fight against the very thing we need? The first step is then to correctly identify our enemy.
People often use battle images when talking about the struggle for our souls. It is, after all, a spiritual battle. But, it is important to remember that our fight is one of resistance, of endurance, of trustfully waiting for the One who fights for us. I once saw a movie where bad guys abduct a little girl, hoping to get a hefty ransom for her. The girl was really annoying to them because she was never scared. She kept telling the bad guys they would really regret it when her dad showed up to rescue her. She was confident in her father’s love and his power to save her. She did not believe the lies they tried to tell her… she didn’t even listen to them. She resisted, and she waited. And when her dad showed up and beat the bad guys, she didn’t fight him. She ran into his arms and went home with him.
What a blessing for Mrs. Franchet to have Father Eymard on her side. He was there to guide and steer her in the storm of life. We all need someone like that. We need to have people we can turn to that can help us discern the action of the Holy Spirit in our lives. We need someone to help us differentiate the enemy, to help us discern when to surrender and when to resist. We need the Church to teach us and guide us. Let us then help each other throw out the water seeping into our little boats and entrust ourselves to the Love of the One who died for us. We need each other so that together, we may persevere.
Stay With Me
I do not know what is worse, being the one who is ill or witnessing a loved one being sick. Though both sides experience suffering, each brings its own kind of pain. There is an overwhelming sense of helplessness when we realize that we cannot make someone else’s pain disappear. This feeling is so painful and strong that we sometimes choose to keep our distance from another’s pain. Fear will sometimes make us choose to only say a prayer from home, even when we know we are being called to more.
When I was pregnant with our third child, I spent six weeks in the hospital under strict bedrest orders; the days were long and lonely. Other than a nurse popping in every now and again, I mostly just looked at the ceiling and slept. My husband would bring our two young boys to see me every evening after work. This was the highlight of my day. We would eat dinner, hang out and watch tv. Nothing major, just being a family together doing ordinary things. Their presence changed everything for me. At least for a little while each day, my loneliness would disappear. When the days were dark and long, I did not have to look too far ahead. I would just have to hang on until evening… When my hospital room would fill with love and become home.
No one should walk through the darkness of illness alone. What is the first thing we look for when we are afraid? We look for a hand to grab; we look for a hand to squeeze. Like a wine press extracting the juice from a grape, we squeeze hard… until drops of courage flow from them to us. When another human accompanies us with love, we drink from their presence. We take in God’s love. In a very real way, they become Eucharist for us.
It is not easy to accompany the sick in their pain. It takes love, and it takes courage. It takes getting comfortable in the discomfort of not knowing what to say. It takes coming to terms with our own frailty, our own limitedness… We must come to terms with our inability to make everything better for them.
The only way to learn is to do it, knowing you will make mistakes. Walk with the sick; walk with the lonely; do not look away. Do not think you would rather remember them how they were. They need you now. Stay.
What Do You See?
By: Ivonne J. Hernandez
It always amazed me how, whenever I was pregnant, whether I was walking down the street, shopping at the mall, or going to Mass on Sunday… no matter where I went, there seemed to be pregnant women everywhere. It is like being pregnant gave me a special radar to hone in on those who were in the same boat as me. We would notice each other and share a smile that said, “Hang in there… I see you. I see your pain, your sacrifice, your love. I see the difficulties you are dealing with in a world that refuses to make room for you and the child inside you, a world that values productivity and speed as you slow down. Hang in there, my friend; you are not alone.” The rest of the time, which has been the majority of my life, I am sure many pregnant women have walked by without me noticing, without me seeing them… without a glance of love to acknowledge their plight. When I’ve done this, I have sinned in what I have failed to do, “through my fault, through my fault, through my own grievous fault….”
Sins of omission are very difficult to deal with, and we should put in extra effort to identify them, lest we compound the omission by omitting to look for them. Acknowledging the limitations of our human nature, we must put checks and balances in place to help us cover all our bases… especially the areas most prone to neglect. The call to love our neighbor requires this; we must not delay. God does not ask the impossible of us. He has given us to one another to help “cover our six.” Just like a pregnant woman has eyes to notice other pregnant women, a person in a wheelchair sees others without mobility. The mother of an autistic child sees her neighbor’s undiagnosed child with empathy. The hard of hearing has more patience with the loudness of the old man standing in line behind him. We can not expect, as individuals, to have eyes that see what is hidden from us; we can only see what we see. But we can choose to see more by actively seeking the company of those different than us.
We must have the courage to expand our view to see all the dimensions of human suffering. What stops us from doing this? A phrase in Spanish comes to mind… “ojos que no ven, corazon que no siente,” which translates to “eyes that don’t see, heart that doesn’t feel”…or… “what you don’t know, can’t hurt you.” If we are already suffering, looking to our neighbor in a similar situation brings us comfort; we know we are not alone. But seeking to see suffering we are not going through ourselves right now? That requires courage; that requires love. It requires the courage to be willing to be moved with compassion, to be moved to action fueled by love. Once we see, we can not say we did not know. Once we see, we can not ignore anymore.
One day, as I walked out of a store with my cane, a young man held the door for me and offered to help me with my bags. I gratefully accepted, and we talked as he pushed my shopping cart toward my car. He asked me what was wrong with me; why did I need a cane to walk? After I told him, he shared that his mom also has an illness that makes it difficult for her to walk. He didn’t know that not long before he showed up, I was feeling frustrated that this store did not have an automatic door, nor did it have attendants to help me. I was already tired from shopping and now needed to exert more effort to get my stuff to the car. God heard my cry, and he called the young man. If this man had not experienced his mother’s suffering, he might have walked on by without noticing I was tired, for my suffering was not evident to all. It is not like I had fallen on the ground; almost everyone would leap to help in that circumstance. No, my physical and mental pain was hidden from most. His mom’s illness had been the instrument God used to open this man’s eyes and heart to see me this day, to help me and bring joy and light to my day.
Why does a good God allow suffering? I might not know the full answer, but I know that on that day when I was walking out of a store, the suffering of the young man’s mother and my own worked together to bring greater glory to God. When we look at the Cross, we see what is required of love. Let us open our eyes and expand our worldview. Let us not be afraid of allowing the suffering of others to break our hearts, for Christ is ready to heal and strengthen us, to then use us in His service… to help us bring sight to the blind and bring comfort to the afflicted.
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We are Ivonne J. Hernandez, Rick Hernandez and Laura Worhacz, Lay Associates of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, and brothers and sisters in Christ.