“I am sorry. We cannot do anything else. You have got a terminal illness,” said the doctor.
“What did you just say?” He was terribly shocked by the news.
“You have about six months to live…”
He passed out.
I recall this story when I meditate on the Word of God today:
“Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed.” (Is 58: 7-8)
That is the inspired passage proclaimed by prophet Isaiah. Seven centuries after him, our Master Jesus affirms:
“You are the light of the world.
… your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Mt 5: 14,16)
The passages above may be summarized as follows: We are invited to heal our wounds by becoming light. It doesn’t seem very clear, does it? Let me continue to tell you the story with hope to make it clearer.
The patient with the terminal illness was a college student who was about to graduate. The future before him was exciting and promissing. Suddenly one day he felt abnormally exhausted and painful. He was taken to hospital. The test showed that he would only have about 6 months to live. If we were in his situation, what would we feel or do?
Dear friend, after having regained consciousness, he decided to do something meaningful: to dedicate his last six months to those who suffer. He then went to HIV-AIDS centers to take care of the patients. He went to houses for lepers to help clean their wounds. He looked for the homeless to provide them with some comfort…. He seemed to forget himself.
Someone asked him: “Why are you doing this?”
He answered: “I am still more fortunate than many.”
“What? You are more fortunate than them? You only have a few months to live while they may have a few years!”
“Yes. I am more fortunate because I still have faith in Jesus.”
You know what, six months later, he was still alive without feeling abnormally tired or painful any more. At his next check-up, the doctors were astonished. They did not know what happened to his illness; but he knew why he was cured. When he only focused on others, the love in him was lit up that enabled him to forget himself and his pain. The light in his heart was suddenly growing stronger, shining on him, covering him and healed him. He was plunged into the light of love. In a sense, this love was lit up by his interraction with the suffering of others. We can say that it is the other suffering people that healed him when he reached out to them.
I don’t know how to sufficiently explain it, but here is my personal experience: When I am in distress, sadness, disappointment, loneliness,… I find myself lucky if I meet someone who is in a worse situation than mine. Then if I reach out to them, my sorrows will automatically decrease and I am miraculously healed.
Dear friend, now I understand why millions of suffering people keep coming everyday to “The Criminal” who died a terrible death on the Cross: Jesus. Why? Because in the crucified Jesus contains the most radical suffering that can cover and penetrate all the pains of humanity. They find in Jesus a profound understanding, a true sympathy and an inexhaustible source of healing. (Hebrew 4:15; 1Peter 2:24)
My dear friend, when we come to other suffering brothers and sisters, on the outside we may seem to be benefactors, but profoundly on the inside we are beneficiaries. In our journey of life, there are always people who suffer. May we enjoy taking advantage of them as our luck, our precious opportunity in order to practise the word of our Teacher Jesus: “You are the light of the world.… your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father,” and in order to heal our wounds.
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.