March 7, 2014 – Twists and Turns

Wow, what a beautiful day it was!  Days like this give you hope that spring can’t be too far away, although the darn meteorologists are still putting the “s” word in the forecast.  With the nice day and the general “good feeling” it brought, I felt a more “light-hearted” blog coming on despite being in the Lenten season.  I was going to talk about some different kinds of things to give up for Lent that you may not have thought of, such as brand-name bath tissue, the closest parking spot at Wal-Mart, and Girl Scout cookies (you probably don’t have any left anyway!).  However, as the day went along, it took a more serious tone.

When checking my phone at lunchtime, I saw an item about Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago.  He has already had a couple of rounds of cancer treatment in the past, and in his latest column for the Archdiocesan newspaper, he revealed that he will be receiving another course of chemo, saying that: “this Lent finds me once again in poor health. My cancer, which was dormant for well over a year, is still confined to the area of the right kidney, but it is beginning to show signs of new activity. After many tests, scans, biopsies and other inconveniences, the settled judgment is that the best course of action is to enter into a regimen of chemotherapy, with drugs more aggressive than those that were used in the first round of chemo. This treatment will take place over the next two months, when my reaction to the chemo will be evaluated.

I was able to maintain my administrative schedule well during that first round, although my public schedule was sometimes curtailed because of lowered immunity. As I prepare for this next round of chemo, I ask for your prayers, which have always sustained me, and for your understanding if I cannot always fulfill the schedule already set for the next several months. While I am not experiencing symptoms of cancer at this time, this is a difficult form of the disease, and it will most probably eventually be the cause of my death. Chemo is designed to shrink the tumor, prevent symptoms and prolong life.”

Despite the challenge he faces now, Cardinal George used his situation as the basis of a powerful Lenten message.  I urge you to read his column by clicking on the link below:

http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0309/cardinal.aspx

Then later this afternoon, I learned that one of the lab technicians at the Chester Clinic had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer.  It sounds strange, but my entire life folks have had trouble drawing blood from me.  Some suggested that I don’t have veins.  Some suggested that I should bring my own vampire with me.  But Peggy is always patient with me and explains exactly what she is doing.  Whether she has to go for the forearm, or the back of the hand, she is patient with me until she gets her blood – and I don’t ever have to scream while she is doing it (well, not much).

After hearing news such as this, the normal thoughts go through your head.  Why do bad things always seem to happen to good people?  Why do people have to endure suffering?  I think part of the experience of Lent is to remind ourselves that suffering is part of the human condition, whether it be physical, mental, or emotional.  We are certainly made aware of that in this Sunday’s gospel in which Jesus spends 40 torturous days in the desert being tempted by Satan.  And of course we will be reminded again when we mark Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

Fr. Robert Barron, in his daily Lenten reflection, puts suffering in perspective.  He says that “there is a regrettable interpretation of the cross that has, unfortunately, infected the minds of many Christians. This is the view that the bloody sacrifice of the Son on the cross was “satisfying” to the Father, and appeasement of a God infinitely angry at sinful humanity.”  This view is contradicted in the gospel of John, where we find that all familiar passage: “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only Son, that all who believe in him might have eternal life.”  John reveals that it is not out of anger or vengeance or in a desire for retribution that the Father sends the Son, but precisely out of love.  God is a parent who wants His children to stay on the right path.  God loves us despite the fact that we are sinners – He only hates the sin.

Pope Francis, in his homily at his daily Mass this morning, tells us that the most difficult form of charity is to personally see to the needs of those who suffer.  He says that “the question posed by the Church today is “Am I ashamed of the flesh of my brother and sister? … When I give alms, do I drop the coin without touching the hand (of the poor person, beggar)? And if by chance I do touch it, do I immediately withdraw it? When I give alms, do I look into the eyes of my brother, my sister? When I know a person is ill, do I go and visit that person? Do I greet him or her with affection? There’s a sign that possibly may help us, it’s a question: Am I capable of giving a caress or a hug to the sick, the elderly, the children, or have I lost sight of the meaning of a caress? These hypocrites were unable to give a caress. They had forgotten how to do it….. Don’t be ashamed of the flesh of our brother, it’s our flesh! We will be judged by the way we behave towards this brother, this sister.”

This Lenten season, let us try to keep in mind the needs of those around us who are suffering in any way.  Let us also remember that we are not alone in our own suffering.  Have a great week.  Peace.

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