The Gift of Presence

As I write this “Corner” on the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, my homily for this feast centered on the “sometimes hard to fathom” precept that God never abandons us in our sufferings and sorrows. Even before Our Blessed Mother gave birth to Our Savior, she was presented with the prophecy by Simeon, that sorrow, like a sword, would pierce her Immaculate Heart. The passion, suffering, and horrific death of her Son by crucifixion certainly brought credulity to that foretelling. We know she remained at the foot of the cross and endured the greatest of sorrow witnessing Jesus’ most excruciating suffering. She could not relieve His pain but she could give Him the gift of her presence.

If there is a way to alleviate pain (our own or that of someone else), certainly we should do so. There is nothing noble about suffering needlessly. However, when pain is unavoidable (and must be accepted) trying to deny it or run away from the sorrow it causes can generate more misery than if you will simply stand and face it. We need to truly trust in God as Jesus, through His emissary, St. Faustina, pleaded with us to do. God never abandons us in our suffering. Truly trusting that God is with us (even in our pain) enables us to walk through our personal sorrow with hope. In knowing and trusting that we are not alone, we can allow Him to comfort and strengthen us.

So when we encounter others who are hurting or suffering remember the value of simply giving them the gift of your presence. You do not need to have any fancy consoling words or pearls of wisdom to provide. Simply, kindly and gently, be there which will assure them that they are not alone. We cannot deny or minimize pain…we need simply to acknowledge that it does not have the last word. We do need to embrace and encourage others to embrace, the virtue of hope. For it is hope that empowers us to endure…trusting that God can indeed, bring good out of sorrow and pain.

That normally triggers the doubtful thought that often creeps in, “How can anything good possibly come from pain?” My first inclination now, centered in my faith, is to simply point to our Savior on the cross. But let’s explore a few examples that answer that question:

  • Because pain gets our attention and thereby motivates us to take needed action.
  • It can lead to healthy humility. When we come to the end of our resources, we often have no choice but to turn to and rely on God, instead of our own strength. While that may well be a scary and uncomfortable place to be, it is also an opportunity to grow in faith.
  • When we continue to simply persevere and place one foot in front of the other, one step at a time, we strengthen our faith “muscle”. We affirm our trust that God knows what He is doing, even when we cannot see it.
  • Our own pain should help us grow in empathy for others we encounter in their suffering. Here in our relatively small parish, there is no shortage of opportunities to emphatically attend to our brothers and sisters who suffer.
  • Our words of comfort to those who are struggling become so much more credible when we have our own experience to share.

God works through both the joys and the sadness in our lives. He has told us that we must take up our crosses and follow Him to attain eternal life. If our Heavenly Father can bring great good out of Jesus’ suffering and death, He can bring good out of our sorrow and suffering as well. Currently I am visiting several parishioners who are in serious health conditions, and I cannot tell you what an uplifting experience it is for those who have virtually nobody looking in on them other than their caregiver. It is not just me, they treasure visits from all treasured friends. The praise Our Lord had for the good Samaritan and his selfless attention to an unknown sufferer in need should be a positive lesson for all of us to embrace.

Our Time and Talent Ministry Fair is but weeks away, and I encourage every age-qualified parishioner to give consideration to joining the ministries of Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist and Visitors to the Home Bound. There is no limit to the membership numbers in these ministries. And along with the membership in the Society of Eucharistic Adorers, I can think of nothing else that will move your soul to a greater deepening in love and peace than these outreaches in faith and love.

Yours in love of neighbor,