By Barb Arland-Fye
This year’s Lenten journey has been especially arduous for a close relative, a friend, a colleague and another colleague’s young relative whose journey I have been following on his CaringBridge website.
Each one’s suffering weighs heavily on my heart, as if I am absorbing it, which doesn’t help them or me! How can I help them carry their crosses and alleviate their burden? Prayer is an essential response but I feel compelled to act on those prayers. The answers to my questions and my prayers are beginning to unfold like a flower blooming in spring.
My husband Steve spent a week earlier this month assisting our close relative who underwent surgery. He cooked meals, made a couple of household repairs and served as a healing and recovery coach of sorts. In the first few days of Steve’s absence, I felt a pang of regret about not being able to join him as an assistant coach. However, in prayer, I recognized that his gift of service was a shared gift, a sacrifice of our time together. In a light-hearted confession, our relative expressed abiding love for me but admitted that Steve makes a better nurse than I do!
A friend who lives out of town and recently lost her mother is among the people in my daily prayers. We have been able to commiserate over my friend’s loss through Zoom and texting but it’s not the same as in-person comforting. We had that opportunity just the other day and shared a good hug. I can’t say enough about the value of a good hug!
For the colleague embarking on a courageous battle against illness, I found the perfect card. The eloquent, brief, prayerful sentiments expressed in the card convey my appreciation for her positive attitude and the example she sets for all of us.
For the colleague whose young relative is in the midst of difficult medical treatment, I am following his story on his CaringBridge website and posting messages of encouragement to him and his family while keeping them in my prayers.
My Twitter feed contained a post (a snippet) from Pope Francis’ Angelus on Sunday, March 26, in St. Peter’s Square reflecting on the Gospel reading for the fifth Sunday of Lent from John’s Gospel. When I read the post, I immediately sent it to my relative whose suffering seems unbearable. The post reads, “Jesus invites us not to stop believing and hoping, not to let ourselves be crushed by negative feelings. He approaches our tombs and says to us, as then: ‘Take away the stone.’’’
While the excerpt moved me deeply (and I think my relative was moved, too), the entirety of Pope Francis’ Angelus message provides an inspiring gateway to Holy Week. He encourages us to read this passage from chapter 11 of John’s Gospel and describes it as a “hymn to life, and it is proclaimed when Easter is near.” The Holy Father asks, “Are we able to open the tomb of problems, are we capable, and look over the threshold, towards his light, or are we afraid of this? And in turn, as small mirrors of God’s love, do we manage to illuminate the environments in which we live with words and gestures of life? Do we bear witness to the hope and joy of Jesus?” (https://tinyurl.com/2pvtknm9)
Every year, my Lenten journey is a journey of discovery. This year, I have discovered not to fret over carrying other people’s crosses but to accompany them in whatever way I am able.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at firstname.lastname@example.org)