Beauty in Suffering

Today’s gospel reading hit home extra hard for me. (I wrote this a couple weeks ago).  It was the scene where the leper, the outcast & shunned one in Jesus’ day, Came to Jesus & expectantly begged The Lord to heal him. Jesus healed the man instantly, yet told him not to tell anyone. Which personally, seemed like Jesus was using reverse psychology. I mean, did he really think the healed man could contain his excitement and praise of this miracle worker? I doubt it. But, what do I know? I’m only human.

I seems that Jesus must have assumed the man would proclaim his miracle healing to all who would listen, even though he sternly told him not to. I think it shows again, the depths of Our Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. He was fully willing to undergo being inevitably shunned, ridiculed & slandered for having touched an unclean leper. He knew he would not be allowed to enter towns or Temples or dine with anyone. Yet,he sacrificed his dignity and reputation to save and heal this one man. That to me, shows ultimate compassion and love!

What particularly struck me was the reflection that followed the Gospel reading: “Do you seek the Lord Jesus with expectant faith? No one who sought Jesus out was refused his help. Even the untouchables and the outcasts of Jewish society found help in him. Unlike the people of Jesus’ time who fled at the sight of a leper, Jesus touched the leper who approached him and he made him whole and clean.  How do you approach those who are difficult to love, or who are shunned by others because they are deformed or have some disease? Do you show them kindness and offer them mercy and help as Jesus did? The Lord is always ready to show us his mercy and to free us from whatever makes us unclean, unapproachable, or unloving towards others.

“Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with your love and make me clean and whole in body, mind, and spirit. May I never doubt your love nor cease to tell others of your great mercy and compassionate care.”

I immediately thought of my mom and the struggles I have had and still do with fully accepting her and accepting this situation of her slow suffering illness & inevitable impending death.  I still fight bouts of stubborn anger and resentment, strong enough sometimes where I avoid seeing her for a couple weeks at a time. I know it’s my way of rebelling in a sense, from this role  I have been forced to lead. The hard part is when I wake up and realize that I have really only ended up creating more of the hurt that I was so resentful about to begin with! Oh, the irony!

Earlier this week I heard on Catholic radio,  a priest explaining that true spiritual growth happens when we realize and truly accept that our difficulties in life are really our unique paths to achieve holiness.  It can be so blindingly difficult to not get trapped in our sinful webs of resentment, revenge, anger, and fear. Sometimes I hang on to tightly to those thoughts of bitter despair, that prove to serve no one. I get stuck in the “why me’s” and the “how could you?’s  I know that a certain amount of grieving is normal and even healthy, but when it becomes stifling, then I know that it’s not “of God”, & no good.  When I focus on what I have gained throughout this journey, and not only lost, then I am better able to feel grateful for everything I have. I can more easily appreciate the beauty, but also recognize the beauty within the suffering.

An example of this happened yesterday while I was eating dinner with mom at the care center. She has been having a tough week, and when she first saw me she called out “oh!!! I am SO happy to see you!!! I love you SO much!!!” In the past mom was affectionate, but not as nearly openly expressive as she is now at times. Dementia changes the brain in many ways, and occasionally it can bring out changes for the better.

It is very humbling to repeatedly have to tell your grief-stricken mom that her parents are no longer alive, and that no, they didn’t die in a car accident on the way home from Arizona. Or that no, her father did not suddenly lose his job. Or that no, your parents got along well, they don’t fight all the time. Her vulnerability teaches me that life is short and precious. I am learning that our words matter a great deal, and that understanding and compassion go a long way, especially when there are so many life and “death” situations or imaginings.

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