Making Choices to Alleviate Pain and Suffering - Comfort the Afflicted
by Deacon Thomas Frankenfield
Continuing our Journey
Thanks to all of you who are sending notes via email. I truly appreciate your thoughtful words and I especially am grateful for your prayers. Additionally, you can be assured of my daily prayer for your needs. I am honored to be serving God in this capacity. Keep your smiles glowing and your fingers typing.
Comfort the Afflicted
We now come to one of the most powerful of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, particularly for those who bear hurts from some manner of pain or endure some types of suffering.
The challenge to “Comfort the Afflicted” means that Christians are called to make a huge step in faith. We are called to go beyond ourselves to be available to others. Regardless of what infirmary we may deal with, there are always opportunities to make the reign of God present in other’s lives. We need to trust God that He will be our guide in this journey.
The fundamental roots of Comforting the Afflicted are found in throughout many of the Gospel stories of Jesus. Often we see Jesus coming to the aid of others but it was especially difficult for Him during His Passion. However, Jesus still found time to insure that His Mother Mary, who was in the depths of grief, was cared for by St. John and Jesus touched a hurting when He reached out to the Good Thief.
In each of these cases, Jesus himself was at the brink of death and He still found time for others. Yes, Jesus is our role model. We are called to be Christ-like at all times, even when we are suffering. We do Jesus work in our times when we find time for others.
Meeting Jesus in a Cripple
A story of my struggle might help illustrate this point straightforwardly. These days, I suffer from very serious case of arthritis that causes me to drastically change my lifestyle. Dealing with such pain often means that I am tempted with mood swings. When things are most difficult, I find it a challenge to stay pleasant and cheerful.
One morning, I was called to visit a parishioner at local hospital. On this morning, my pain was exceptionally sharp so that I was forced to use a cane to walk. In this process, I struggled with the temptation of self pity. I asked God…why? Of course, matters got more complicate when I could not find a parking spot close to the facility and was forced to park at least 750 meters away.
As I finally approached the hospital, I was clearly struggling. This could be seen in my limping; my moaning and also though my internal grumbling. I asked God why He did not find another person to go to the hospital—one who could at least walk without pain. When I entered the lobby of the hospital, I soon discovered why God called me that particular day.
About 10 meters inside the lobby was a legless man in a wheelchair. This man greeted everyone who came in the door with a beaming smile and asked if they needed help. He offered me coffee and doughnuts as he told me that he was sorry that I was having a hard time walking. I just stood and stared!
God had clearly showed me that reaching out to others was truly possible. As I wiped the tears from my eyes, I realized that it was God who was talking to me through the actions of that cripple.
The Ability to Use Our Gifts to Heal
Caring for others has no boundaries. Our Baptism calls each of us to go beyond our personal suffering to be available to comfort others. Before I encountered the crippled man, I was in pain by choosing to focus on myself—not others. This gentleman was ignoring the personal suffering and reaching out to others. What a lesson!
I am challenging each of you who suffer in any way to reach out with Christ to find a depth of compassion that may be new to you. Can you find time to reach out to help others? Can you make time for the “least of Jesus’ people?” If you can’t walk, call a friend and tell them you care for them. If you can’t hear, send a written message. There are many possibilities.
As a postscript, I have never seen that cripple again at the hospital but I carry that message in my heart and it has changed my life. Can you change?
For Your Reflection
From a Ministry Perspective:
- Are there particular persons in my ministry area who I see struggle? Am I open to let God use my weaknesses to help another? Can I reach out to be an agent of love for them?
- Take a silent walk to a crowded area and observe the cripples in life. Reflect on their gifts. Thank God for your gifts.
From a Family Perspective:
- Are there particular persons in my Domestic Church, as parent, sibling, widow or single, who struggle with suffering? Am I open to let God use my weaknesses to help another? Can I reach out to be an agent of love for them?
- Share with your Domestic Church those times when you have experienced people who inspire you. If you can’t remember anything then go to a crowded area and observe the cripples in life. Reflect on their gifts. Thank God for your gifts.
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