Wednesday greetings from Chicago, where dense fog grips us on this Spring morning.
Last night, I spoke with a close family member who has been living with cancer for over six years and has been receiving some intense radiation treatment at the cancer center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston over the past several weeks.
One often hears about the courage that people who live with cancer exhibit. My heart was aching for her, yet the resiliency, courage, and cheerfulness in her voice filled me with such joy; surely a paradox.
As we approach the Year of Mercy, I am very much thinking of those who live with chronic illness. The Vatican released Pope Francis' prayer for the jubilee year yesterday. Here is the way that prayer begins:
Lord Jesus Christ,
you have taught us to be merciful like the heavenly Father,
and have told us that whoever sees you sees him.
Show us your face and we will be saved.
Your loving gaze freed Zacchaeus and Matthew from being enslaved by money;
the adulteress and Magdalene from seeking happiness only in created things;
made Peter weep after his betrayal,
and assured Paradise to the repentance thief.
Let us hear, as if addressed to each one of us, the words that you spoke to the Samaritan woman:
"If you knew the gift of God!"
"If you knew the gift of God!" Those words were spoken to me last night during my conversation with someone I love very much. Where does Christ show us his face? Perhaps that's the question we need to be asking as we try to wrap our hearts and brains around what mercy really is in our day-to-day lives.
I remember, as if it were yesterday, a visit I had with my youngest sister, who passed away in early 2001. She was in her last months of life here on earth, suffering greatly from the effects of a very aggressive form of multiple sclerosis. Even though we were never a family that sat down and prayed spontaneously together, I remember asking her if she would mind if we prayed together. There was no hesitation from her. I don't remember exactly what I said in my prayer. What I do remember is saying to her that in all my years of studying theology, going to countless Masses and prayer services, reading the scriptures, and leading music at Masses, I don't ever remember knowing the presence of the Lord as I was knowing it right then and there with her. I looked into her eyes and said that I knew the presence of Christ most really in her. There was no spoken response from her, but I could see that somehow she knew what I was talking about. "Your loving gaze . . ."
"Show us your face and we will be saved."
Grateful today for this gift of life.
Gotta sing. Gotta pray.