There are times when God uses us as a pretext so people can be merciful
I suffered a near-death experience. It was January and a longtime illness caused my lungs and heart to fail. Doctors were able to save me in the emergency room after several hours. Further studies revealed that over 80 percent of my air passages were blocked or didn’t even exist anymore.
When Pope Francis had announced that the church would celebrate a Jubilee of Mercy, I made many plans to be part of this special year. Not only passing through the Holy Doors and living the works of mercy. As a Catholic evangelist and journalist I planned to give several lectures. I thought of writing a book entitled “Why Can’t I Forgive?” and publishing it this year. But everything crumbled to pieces.
I would spend the following several months undergoing five proven treatments that didn’t help me a bit. I lived with excruciating pain day and night. My doctors were puzzled. They said mine was the hardest case they had treated in over 25 years.
I felt bad having to cancel all my presentations. Some parishes had invested in posters to advertise my lectures. But pain stopped me from preparing them, and I didn’t have the strength to stand and talk before an audience. My plan to write a new book vanished in the thin air. My radio program “Semillas para la Vida” (Seeds for Life) survived on reruns from the previous nine years, as I couldn’t speak. My apostolic activity was reduced to writing for this magazine only.
My wife and children suffered a lot. My soul broke every time I had to say “no” to my younger son when he asked me to play with him. It pained me to miss all the soccer matches of my older son. I felt sad when I saw silent tears rolling down from the eyes of my wife, who worried to see me getting worse every day.
I had two choices: complaining and cursing or making a profit out of so much pain. I asked my friends to share their problems with me so I could offer my pain for them. Their petitions came down in buckets. In the end, everyone is carrying a cross, and it always helps when someone, through his pain, makes our personal afflictions something meaningful. One day, a lady who was baptized a couple of years ago embraced me and whispered to my ear, “Thank you. Your illness has helped me to finally understand what Catholic faith is all about.”
I had to undergo four surgeries in three weeks. The pain was extreme. My mother joined us from Mexico to give us a hand. My father and sisters stayed at home praying ardently. The father of my goddaughter took my kids to school every morning. Some friends from high school fasted a few times and offered it for my recovery. One friend cooked for us. Another drove me to the hospital one day. My two best friends — one of them a priest — called long distance daily. My aunts started a circle of prayer that kept growing every day.
I realized how each of them could be merciful by having someone close to them who was sick and whom they could care about: They fed the hungry, prayed for the living, visited the sick, consoled the afflicted, and bore the one who had become a burden.
In order to be merciful, we need someone else who is in need. Through my illness, my friends could be merciful in the Year of Mercy. And I could offer my pain for the needs of each of them. Sometimes, God uses us as channels of his mercy. Other times, he uses us as the pretext he needs so other people can be merciful.
After seven months, I finally feel well. God has granted me health after such a long trial. I give thanks to the Lord for having held me, showing me his mercy through so many people. To me, this was a Jubilee of Mercy very different from what I had dreamed. But, at the end of the day, an unforgettable experience.
Be passionate about our faith!
Read the Spanish version of this “Semillas de la Palabra” column from the November 2016 issue of NORTHWEST CATHOLIC.