Last summer I learned firsthand the reality of Christ’s presence to those who suffer when I came down with Lyme disease. It attacked the joints in my right leg so I could not walk without excruciating pain. I could barely make it to the toilet, and would sit helpless in the bathtub while my husband ran the water. All of my meals were brought to me on a tray, and our friends delivered many dinners. I even received the great grace of a home visit by my pastor who offered me Holy Eucharist and Anointing of the Sick.
The reality is that illnesses are extremely isolating even when one receives constant care from others. There were days the loneliness bore in upon me as I spent another long day on the couch, not able to move, just waiting to get well. This is why Christ tells us that when we visit the sick that we are visiting Him. (See Matthew 25:35-40.)
For it is in our darkest moments, our deepest sufferings, our times of hunger, both physical and spiritual, that Christ dwells in us. He knows most fully what we experience. He was there first in His physical suffering of His Passion and Death on the Cross and in the deep isolating loneliness of Holy Saturday as He descended into Hell. He waits for us there.
He meets us there to resurrect us, to redeem us, as He uses our suffering to make us one with Him. These hard sufferings, too, will pass.
If this is how we understand suffering, then we should want to run to those in pain, those who hunger, those who are in need. When we go to comfort those who suffer we find Him, our Lord, Who suffered for us. When we stand at the foot of our neighbor’s cross, we stand at the Foot of His and hear Him say, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). And when we go to them they receive Christ in us.
This Lent, let's ponder, alongside this saintly man, being at the foot of the Cross and Christ's seven last words.
Susanna Spencer is the Theological Editor for Blessed is She who studied theology and philosophy in her earlier life. She happily cares for her three adorable little girls, toddler boy, and her dear husband in Saint Paul when not writing and editing. She loves beautiful liturgies, cooking delicious meals, baking amazing sweets, reading good books, raising her children, casually following baseball, and talking to her philosopher husband. You can find out more about her here. She is the Theological Editor of both the Catechism Studies and the Mystery Studies.