We began our Advent and Christmas reflection
this year by explaining that the “voice of illness” is the voice inside all of us that cries, “Where is God?” Five weeks ago
, we looked at doing and being when responding to the voice of illness. Four weeks ago
, we explored how Jesus responded to the voice of illness, and three weeks ago
, we saw what this means for those in pastoral ministry. Two weeks ago
, we looked at what Scripture says about suffering, and last week, I shared some insights from my own experiences with suffering and other people’s voice of illness.
Today I want to conclude by summarizing my reflections on the voice of illness by sharing the wisdom of a friend, the wife of a deacon candidate. One of her colleagues at work was dealing with what seemed to be depression. All of a sudden, it was as if a darkness and heaviness had descended upon her. One day, seeing she was too ill to stay at work, my friend offered to drive her home, as she didn’t even seem capable of driving. While driving, my friend said to her, “If you want to talk, I’m happy to listen, but if you want to just rest and be silent, that’s OK, too.” When my friend was recounting the story to me, I remarked to her, “You were being a deacon’s wife.”
She looked at me and replied, “No, I was being a friend.”
And that, I think, summarizes it all. We need to be friends to all we meet but especially to the poor and the needy, just as Christ was a friend to the poor and needy. We are called to be friends to those who are suffering and who are lonely. The Church is called to be a friend to the poor. And who is a friend? Someone who listens out of true love and who is present is a true friend. A true friend does not judge nor set the agenda. A true friend does not have any prejudices or biases. A true friend loves and sees the dignity in others. A true friend always offers hope and seeks to comfort. I am reminded of St. Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13.
A true Christian friend recognizes that everyone’s dignity comes from the fact that God loved us first. This friend recognizes that God alone is God and He is our comfort and healing. He is our Salvation, and He makes all things new. A true Christian friend recognizes that we can encounter God in our woundedness and pain. We encounter God in our poverty and loneliness, in our despair and desperation. God is in our insecurities and weaknesses, in our emptiness, our fears and our longings. God himself is in our voice of illness.
God may not take away our suffering, and we may never understand the reason or purpose for our suffering, but our God suffers with us.
Next week is the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. Again, we will hear from the prophet Isaiah:
He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. a bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench
We are the smoldering wick and bruised reed: All those whose voices cry, “Where is God?” And this is our God: The God who does not quench a smoldering wick and who does not break a bruised reed. A different option for the first reading will have Isaiah inviting us to “come to the water” (Isaiah 55:1). If you are crying, “Where is God?” our God invites us to the water.
This year, during these seasons of Advent and Christmas, these notions have been reinforced for me (not just because of all those wonderful readings from Isaiah), for I believe that this is the God of Advent and Christmas: the God whose earthly mother was an unmarried pregnant teenager, the God who was born in a dirty stable because of an inconvenient and patronizing census, who survived a horrible massacre of infant boys, who was persecuted into exile, and who lived the first years of his life as a refugee in a strange land. This God, who came to “shine on those who dwell in darkness”
is the same God who was betrayed, arrested, mocked and beaten, tortured, and who died hanging on a cross as a common criminal, a falsely accused, innocent man on death row. But it is that same God who is also our resurrection. And because of this, the only way to respond to the voice of illness is as a true friend, who can depart from the point of his or her own brokenness in compassion, to "suffer with" all those she or he meets, in love.
This is how we can best help people discover where God is. If that is all we do, then, I believe, we have served well.
Read all our Voice of Illness posts and write to me
to let me know your thoughts and to share your experiences with the voice of illness with me.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing
: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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