That time of year again, Lent! Some of us wait in anticipation, but I’m sure most of us shudder at the thought. It is usually when Christians recognize this as a time of suffering, of stripping away our old self so that we can “be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created in God’s way in righteousness and holiness of truth,” (Ephesians 4:22-24). Sounds beautiful, but hard.
Sometimes our Lent comes during the six weeks before Easter. Other times it comes during a loss of health, job, or friendship.
This year, mine came during Advent as we mourned the loss of our father. Jesus knows when to allow pain and really it is in His providence. My dad’s six-week stay in the hospital had the promise of being successful and coming home. God, however, had the final say. He had a different “home” in mind.
All the prayers, novenas, masses, sacrifices, and overnight stays in the hospital were done with great fervor and hope. My entire family participated, but God, as always, decided differently.
We watched as this ordinary man suffered with Christ. His hospital bed became his cross. Instruments used to heal him were a source of pain. Nourishment was almost non-existent at one point.
My eyes brim with tears as I recall how he begged for a simple glass of water. Because of possible asphyxiation and his ventilator, he could not have one. Jesus’ words from the cross struck my heart and mind, “I thirst!”
My dad, however, was offered a mouth swab, a little sponge on a stick barely moist with water. He was obedient and sucked the water from the sponge. To see our dad whom we love reduced to sucking from a little sponge was heart-wrenching.
Jesus, of course, suffered more as he was offered a bit of wine on a sponge pierced with a hyssop plant.
Again Dad’s body swelled causing fluid to “leak” from his arms and hands so much that a pad had to absorb it. Another suffering with Christ. Jesus suffered so much in the Garden of Gethsemane that he sweat drops of blood for us.
We are not equal to Christ who is sinless in our suffering, but sometimes we experience some of his pain. I never saw it quite as clearly as when my dad suffered and died.
As we go through this Lent let us rejoice in the gift of suffering. Good always comes from it.
My family became a tightly knit organization, crunching schedules to make sure Dad’s visits covered day and night. People who were at odds began to speak to each other. Those who were estranged came back unexpectedly. Jealousies were dismissed. Family and outside ties were strengthened. Friends who never knew my dad came to visit him and pray at his bedside.
Our poor Blessed Mother. What sorrow in her heart as she watched her son tortured and crucified for us. Her child who only gave love to the world. That is why we need to lean on her with ever more trust under the title, “Our Lady of Sorrows.”
Jesus said, “Father, I commend my spirit to you.” I am sure those dying have prayed that. The hardest and best prayer, “Thy will be done.”
If we die with him, we will also be resurrected with him. It is good to know dad’s pain has ceased and he is in his real heavenly home. The same beautiful death and resurrection await us all.
What joy Mother must have felt when she saw her resurrected son! Her tears turned to joy and peace.
What elation was dad’s funeral as we celebrated his life . My brother said it succinctly, “This is what its all about. Sometimes people just don’t get it.”
Copyright 2015, Mary Mitchell