The Sick and Healers
Feb 13, 2018
In God’s desperation to fill us with His love and eternity, He will resort to any means whatsoever to insure our salvation. Often this takes the form of suffering.
Illness and dying does not discriminate between rich and poor, black and white, Christian or Jew…it comes to us all…and God allows it, works with and, most assuredly, works in such sufferings.
Today, we are invited to participate in a World Prayer Day for all the sick. This weekend the Church celebrates the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes and the visionary Saint Bernadette who was no stranger to illness and suffering.
In a culture where athletes, politicians and celebrities are worshipped, the life and person of Saint Bernadette might appear pathetic…perhaps threatening. But for any who have had to struggle with illness of any kind either within themselves or through a loved one, the story of Saint Bernadette must be committed to the memory of the heart, not simply as an inspiring story, but as a living grace whose seeds will sprout into the fruits of courage, fortitude and sanctity.
On February 18, Our Lady said to Bernadette: "Do you wish to do me the favor of coming here for the next fifteen days?" Beaming with joy, the little girl accepted and the Lady quickly responded: "I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next." As quickly as the light of love of the Holy Virgin shines upon the face of Bernadette, the shadow of Christ’s Cross passes across her heart and soul.
The very humble life of Saint Bernadette was a life of prayer. But it was also a life marked by great courage because, contrary to popular opinion, humility is not the virtue of cowards. Rather, it reveals an uncommon strength of the soul.
Thus, some years after her profession, Saint Bernadette added to her job of "prayer”, another job, no less elevated and profitable. While she was bedridden in a corner of the infirmary, she was visited by a Superior: "What are you doing there, lazy little thing?"-"But, my dear Mother, I am doing my job."-"And what is your job?"-"To be sick."
Tuberculosis was gaining ground on her: a tumor became evident on her knee, which swelled and became very painful. She noted in her diary: "I have completely lost the use of my legs; I have to undergo the humiliation of being carried." Beginning in October, 1878, the tumor produced unrelenting pain. Bernadette only found strength in Jesus and, out of love for Him, she even came to "love" suffering:
"With my Christ, I am happier on my bed than a queen on her throne," she wrote to a Sister that had sent her a picture of Jesus Crucified. Thus she echoed these words of Saint Paul: I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the Church (Col 1: 24). United with the mystery of the suffering of Christ, she truly participated in the redemption of the world.
When the concluding moments of Bernadette’s passion approached she said: "When one is in bed, during a time of great suffering, it is necessary to remain motionless like Our Lord on the Cross." She was not always able to accomplish it: "Pay no attention to my contortions, it's nothing!" and, holding her Crucifix: "I am like Him."
During the night of April 14th to 15th, the devil tried to make her despair. She called: "Jesus!" Then she cried out: "Begone, Satan!" The chaplain asked her: "Do you wish to make the sacrifice of your life?" "What sacrifice? It is not a sacrifice to leave this poor life in which one goes through so many difficulties to belong to God! Oh! One must not wait until the last moment to serve God! At such a moment one is capable of so little!"
She always remembered the instructions of the Blessed Virgin Mary: “To suffer for the eternal salvation of poor sinners,” and her profound joy did not leave her.
To love someone is to want to become one with one’s beloved. To become one with Christ is to share in the love of God whose passionate intensity is most fully expressed through His suffering and death. Saint Bernadette reminds us that it is not glamor, fame, riches or even exceptional health that is the means of our greatest blessings…illness, weakness, humility: these become the greatest occasions of holiness because it was when Christ appeared at His weakest, His ugliest, His sickest, His most beaten that He overcame all the evils and sins of all the world, finally destroying death with the noble and humble sacrifice of His whole life in His stricken body.
And just as heroic as those who suffer in faith, are those who with a similar and strong faith attend to the suffering. So many doctors, nurses, health-care aides, volunteers who are truly the extended healing hands of God and the extended compassionate heart of Christ who dares to touch the leper, who insists that He touch us in our suffering by enduring all our pain, bruised, beaten and bloodied on the Cross. Saying particularly in the Medical community: When I was sick you visited me. Whatever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters you do to me.
Thank you to all who tirelessly and Christ-passionately serve and study in the Medical Field of Redemption.