We hope this last week has been a good one for you & that if it has been difficult that you have had the strength and whatever else you have needed to deal with things.
On the 11th, tomorrow, it is the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. We have both been to Lourdes on pilgrimages many times in the past & have come away with a great sense of it being a very special place of healing. There are many people there who have need of physical healing, but so many more whose health needs are psychological, mental, spiritual. So when I come to this feast each year I think of it as a place where healing of all kinds happen. People often ask ‘did you see any miracles?’ – no, I didn’t see anyone in a wheelchair jump up out of it & run, but I do believe many, many unseen ‘miracles take place there. Our reflections today are around the subject of pain, suffering, and of healing – we hope you can relate to one or other of them.
The blessing this week is from John Glynn’s ‘May the Lord Bless You’, his ‘Song of Blessing’.
Next week we will nearing Lent with Ash Wednesday on the 14th.
At 7.30pm. on that evening, as in previous years, we will be offering a zoom reflection as in previous years. Do join us. The link is:
With our love & prayer for a good week for you,
Healing – from ‘The Return of the Prodigal Son’
by Henri Nouwen
I vividly remember talking with a young man loved & admired by everyone who knew him. He told me how a small critical remark from one of his friends had thrown him into an abyss of depression. As he spoke, tears streamed from his eyes and his body twisted in anguish. He felt that his friend had broken through his wall of defenses and had seen him as he really was: an ugly hypocrite, a despicable man beneath his gleaming armour. As I heard his story I realized what an unhappy life he had lived, even though the people around him had envied him for his gifts. For years he had walked around with his inner questions: ‘Does anyone really love me? Does anyone really care? ‘ And every time he had climbed a little higher on the ladder of success, he had thought, ‘This is not who I really am; one day everything will come crashing down and then people will see that I am really no good’.
This encounter illustrates the way that many people live their lives – never fully sure that they are loved as they are. The parable of the Prodigal Son is a story that speaks about a love that existed before any rejection was possible and that still will be there after all rejections have taken place. It is the first and everlasting love of a God who is Father as well as Mother. It is the fountain of all true human love, even the most limited. Jesus’s whole life had only one aim: to reveal this inexhaustible, unlimited love of God and to show the way to let that love guide every part of our daily lives.
Embracing our Pain
Avoidance of suffering is obvious in those who find it nearly impossible to be with others in their times of great hurt: not visiting those who are sick, avoiding those who are bereaved, never speaking to another person about his or her illness, relationship struggle, depression or any other painful situation.
The avoidance is much more subtle when it is our own huge gap of pain that we need to encounter. We can easily make excuses for not taking the time to pray in deeper ways because we fear awareness of how we truly think or feel. We can rationalise that we are so busy tending to someone else’s distress that we have no time for our own. We can tell ourselves that it is silly or stupid to feel as we do. We can hide behind shame or blame, anger or hostility, insisting that what we suffer is someone else’s problem & not our own. We can deny our addictions or weaknesses. We can let our fears loom so large that we succumb to doing nothing at all about what needs to be faced in our own time of suffering. By avoiding what is hurtful in our life, we cast aside a source of personal transformation.
From Seven Last Words
Timothy Radcliffe OP
We live in an age of profound anxiety. We are fearful about disease and illness, about our futures, about our children, about our jobs, about failure, about death. We suffer from a deep insecurity, a collapse of trust. This is strange because we are far more protected and safe than any previous generation of human history, at least in the West. We have better medicine, safer transport; we have more warning about weather issues, have better social security – and yet we are afraid.
I suspect that this pervasive anxiety derives from the fact that we have a culture of control. We can control so many things: fertility and birth, so much disease can be cured; up to a point we can control the forces of nature, mine the earth and dam the rivers. But control is never complete. We are increasingly aware that our planet may be careering towards disaster.
We are afraid, above all, of death, which unmasks our ultimate lack of control. When Jesus dies, the sun and moon are darkened; the tombs are opened and the dead walk. This is the end of which the prophets spoke. The worse that one can ever imagine has already happened. The world collapsed. And then there was Easter Sunday.
Lord, teach me the art of patience while I am well,
and give me the use of it when I am sick.
In that day either lighten my burden or strengthen my back.
In my health, I have so often discovered my weakness,
Presuming my own strength:
Make me string in my sickness when I rely on your help.