“Jim is a saint!” Everyone who knows him said it, from his faithful and loving wife, to all his children, from people he worked with, to his friends. People especially thought this when they saw how he handled his very rare and painful illness that he had to struggle with for almost seven years. Even while he was in hospice all those who cared for him were deeply inspired.
Jim never complained. “He was always concerned about you”, people would say. Those who went to visit him while he was sick felt that, in the end, he was ministering to them rather than the other way around.
Someone asked Jim how he was able to keep his faith in the face of so many challenges and he said: “Many years ago, long before I ever got sick, when I was still pretty young, I had to make a decision in my life. It concerned a big mistake that I had made. Back when all that happened I thought that my life was over and that I would never recover from what had occurred. But God wasn’t going to let go of me so easily, and sent me a very holy priest who said to me, ‘Jim, you are being asked to make a decision. Do you trust in God or not? I believe that in all of this God is asking you to trust in him and to grow from this experience of fear and uncertainty. I think the Lord is looking you right in the eye and saying to you, ‘Make a choice to trust me and grow from all that you’re going through now, or live in fear and regret for the rest of your life. I will not abandon you. Believe it or not, you will see blessings from this some day. Trust in me. Really make an effort to do that’.
And although I still had to deal with the consequences of what had happened, I really learned to pray every day, ‘Lord I surrender my life to you, take care of everything’.
So, when this illness came my way, I kept asking Jesus to help me have faith and trust—to get me through just one day at a time.
The Gospel today forces us to ask an important question: How much do I really trust in God? Am I going to abandon myself to the Lord, or do I really think that I am alone in my suffering? And we are challenged to something else, as well. We are asked to have faith in the midst of affliction.
Here’s a quote from one of Father Thomas Keating’s spiritual books that I have found to be very helpful when I am struggling during difficult times. Here’s what he wrote in a book called “Crisis of Faith, Crisis of Love”:
“God loves you very much, but do not expect that He is going to be on the job the moment you have need of Him. On the contrary, he appears not to be on the job. But He is on the job more than you think. He has things all planned in the back of His mind. He feigns disinterest. He ignores you for the moment. But that is the surest sign of something really wonderful about to happen.”
So, have faith in the midst of affliction. Learn to trust Jesus. And remember what Pope Francis so beautifully says: “Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides all our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.”