From our FOCUS Missionary, Joseph Gruber…
Hello, people of Jackson!
Our parish has been emphasizing the role of healing in the past few months. I think this good and worthwhile, but I’d like to take a moment with you to first back up a step and look at suffering, and then another step to look at creation.
The first step back is to acknowledge the whole reality of suffering. It’s part of the human experience to suffer, and despite the promises of modern technology, it seems it will always be part of the human experience to suffer, at least in this life. As Catholics, we’re called to look at suffering, both in ourselves and in our neighbors.
This looking at suffering can be overwhelming, though, and so it is really only with the eyes of Christ that we can bear to suffer alongside others; as it says in Gaudium et Spes, “Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us” (#22). I think it helpful to see how Jesus fits into our whole picture of suffering in three ways:
First, Jesus sees our pains. He is not ignoring them. They matter to Him because we matter to Him.
Second, Jesus experiences our pains. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith put out an instruction on healing prayer back in 2000, which I recommend, and in it they say, “In fact, ‘Christ himself, though without sin, suffered in his passion pains and torments of every type, and made his own the sorrows of all men: thus he brought to fulfilment what had been written of him by the prophet Isaiah (cf. Is 53:4-5)’”.
Third, Christ promises some path through and out of our suffering: “By suffering for us He not only provided us with an example for our imitation, He blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning.” (Gaudium et Spes #22).
So the first step back, before questions of healing come up, is to acknowledge suffering, and more than that, Jesus’ solicitude toward those who are suffering, and to know that Jesus came as Savior, which is what His very name means.
The second step back is to acknowledge that suffering is not the whole of our existence (even if I find it hard to think of other things when I am suffering…). It is good to exist. Before God came as Savior, He first created us. I think a lot of atheists and agnostics try to skip this step, and will blame God for our suffering without giving Him credit for our existing. My daughter has a number of special needs. The goodness of her existing will always outweigh any of the discomfort she or we may feel. My wife and I have had three miscarriages; it is still a blessing to be a father to children I never met and will never meet in this life. Their lives, though shorter than most, were good, and are gifts to us. If creation were not good, we would have no reason to trust the Creator. We do, though.
Here, then, may be the first step to take: as Venerable Fulton Sheen said, life is worth living. Our picture of suffering, accompanied and even led by Christ, follows. After those steps, I think it worth diving deeper into healing, and know of my prayers for you and those you hold dear as you do so!
Editor’s Note: In the midst of our understanding about suffering, also comes the truth, beauty, and goodness that the Lord extends through healing. As we focus on Hope & Healing as a parish, we invite you to stop by our Prayer Ministry team after the 10 a.m. Sunday Mass or before the noon Mass. We’ll also be making you aware of how you can learn more about the healing the Lord desires for each of us! Watch the bulletin for upcoming events that help you learn about and experience God’s healing love and kindness!
Here are two upcoming opportunities near us from the JP II Healing Center:
We’re coming to Michigan in April!
Healing the Whole Person & Day of Equipping
April 2-4 in Ann Arbor, MI
And new, just for women:
Undone: Freedom for the Feminine Heart
April 16-18 in Lansing, MI
Visit https://jpiihealingcenter.org/events/ for more information