My last column in the WCR appeared Sept. 24 just prior to surgery I had for cancer. I want to express gratitude for the many kind words and prayers people extended to me. I am happy to report the surgery went well and I am on the mend.
My Christian faith has been central to facing both cancer and more than 28 years with chronic degenerative multiple sclerosis. Christ has been my interior guide and master during every ordeal and crisis. He is my closest and most faithful friend.
I am reminded of Pope John Paul II's 1984 Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Doloris, The Christian Meaning of Suffering. Just like the pope said, Christ has invited me to join my suffering with his own suffering, death and resurrection.
This is not unique to me. Christ invites all who suffer to enter into his suffering. By doing so, we can find meaning in our pain and anguish. The journey toward understanding the meaning of suffering in our lives is often fraught with fitful episodes of wide-eyed fears and doubts.
Our physical and spiritual weaknesses threaten to engulf us. Panic makes us want to bolt, but there's no place to run. Our misfortune may tempt us to become bitter and revolt against God.
During such times in my own life I remembered I am not alone. Although I have been so afraid I cannot even pray effectively, the Holy Spirit is present and intercedes with God on my behalf.
The Apostle Paul put it this way: "In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groanings" (Romans 8.26).
I have found great comfort knowing Christ abides with me and all the sick, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Not only does Christ make himself available to the sick, he makes our miseries his own. The intimacy of this union between created and Creator has been my comfort and consolation just as it has been for millions of other suffering people throughout the ages.
It has been within that divine consolation Christ gives that I have discovered a flood of hope rise within me that subdues my fear and weakness, despite a disease that is destroying my body.
St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 4.16-17 says "although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to what is seen but to what is unseen; for what is seen is transitory, but what is unseen is eternal."
The hope that welled up within me was not a false hope. My inner self is being renewed with eternal hope. My wasting body is temporary, in its present state, but my soul is eternal and Jesus is the lover of my soul.
It was when I finally surrendered all I have to God (which is not much) that my sufferings brought me closer to Christ. Christ has granted a special grace to me that transcends my suffering. I have encountered a beautiful mystery. That mystery is the light of Christ.
The intense light of Christ makes everything else pale in compassion. Things of earth become mere diversions and irrelevancies. The light of Christ pushes back the inky darkness of unbelief, fear and defeat, opening new avenues to me to experience his transforming and perfect love. This is critically important to my journey toward eternity.
Pain is fuel for transformation. Suffering has been slowly changing me for close to three decades in preparation for heaven, my home. The logic of divine love assures me all things work for good for those who love and trust in Christ.
Christ has set my feet on the rock of salvation, his divine love made complete by his suffering, death and resurrection. The life I know here may crumble and fall but he remains with me as I unite my sufferings with his.
We read in Ecclesiastes that God has planted eternity in the hearts of humanity and that man cannot see the see the whole scope of God's work (3.11). I must trust that the mystery of his work is for my good. You and I are works in progress; Christ offers himself to lead us in our transformation to be more Christ-like. He is our gift of salvation. All we have to do is accept the gift through faith.