Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Viewing Others Through The Filter Of Our Own Experiences


A couple of months ago I found myself sick for the first time in several years. I continued to push forward, taking this and that medication in an effort to keep myself going until I felt better. 

I have to be clear that this was in no way to be compared with some of the long-term or very serious illnesses that I know some of you contend with each and every day. Please know that my prayers, all of our prayers, are lifted up to God for you.

I made it through several days until finally I could go no further. My skull felt as though it might sheer in two. My nose would spontaneously flow as if from some wellspring deep inside. The muscles in my body would hurt sporadically. My throat had some type of extremely sharp object in it that was possibly the size of a samurai sword. 

And in the midst of it all, I realized that even though I felt absolutely miserable, my suffering (such as it was) was in reality a gift, for it gave me the opportunity to rekindle my compassion for others who are ill. My outlook took on a different perspective; a perspective viewed from the eyes of holiness.

If I am able to expand this experience in my life, then I become more capable and willing to reach out to those and empathize with those who are going through some type of seasonal illness. Or, expanding even further, I might be able to reach out to someone who is suffering from a more long-term physical, mental, spiritual or emotional illness.

This thought returns us to the very basic suggestions of Jesus Christ on how we are to live our lives in service. Feed the hungry. Give drink to the thirsty. Welcome the stranger and clothe the naked. Care for the ill. Visit those in prison.

So, what is the motivation behind all of this? Just because I feel ill for a week, all of a sudden I am supposed to become a Mother Teresa? What happens if I don’t up and join a traveling missionary group every time I get the flu?

God does not expect us all to be martyrs because, well, then we would all be dead (quote of the day). My point is simply to become more aware of God’s call to us through our own experiences in life so that we can then turn around and use our experiences, all of our experiences, to reach beyond ourselves and build up the kingdom of God.

We are called to be joyful in our journeys through this life and yet there are times when we experience pain and suffering through various types of crosses. When we pick up these crosses, we reflect upon and learn from these experiences so that we might assist others in their journey toward Christ. In this, we turn our suffering again into joy and our suffering, united to Christ’s suffering on the cross, has a certain salvific aspect to it.

Our spiritual enemy always seeks to capitalize on our weaknesses (be they physical, mental, emotional or spiritual) in an effort to thin us from the fold, to draw us away from our Shepherd. 

It is during these times of weakness, be they short-lived or long-term, that we must strengthen ourselves with whatever strength we can muster; to call on the shepherd to protect and keep us within the safety of his loving embrace.

I cannot explain illness and death. It can be a very troubling aspect of our human existence. Why some fall ill while others do not is a complicated matter and is somewhat out of our control. It can be a subject that can strain and stretch our faith. And yet, when we face illness in our lives with fidelity to God and give comfort and aid to others who are experiencing the effects of illness in their lives, we can control the effects of illness on our souls.

Our human bodies are subject to this world but our souls are subject only to God. Even when our bodies begin to wear down with age or through illness, our souls can still burn as brightly as the sun, from now into eternity.

Turn your eyes toward the brilliance of God, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and let your souls shine for all to see, no matter the health of your bodies. For God does not see the imperfections of your bodies but reaches out with loving kindness to the glory of your souls. And one day, on that final day, all of our souls will be reunited with our bodies, freed from all blemish and illness. What a glorious morning that shall be indeed!