This is a passage from the Gospel from Holy Mass last Monday, March 12th.
Jesus therefore said to him, "Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe." The official said to him, "Sir, come down before my child dies." Jesus said to [the official], "Go; your son will live." The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went his way. As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was living. … The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, "Your son will live"; and he himself believed, and all his household. Jn 4:48-53
Our priest gave a thought-provoking homily that probably rings true in so many hearts as he asked, “Why then doesn’t Jesus answer our prayers too when we pray for a loved one to be healed?” And Father went on with his soul searching questions from his own life as he wondered why all his parents’ prayers and pilgrimages to holy sites were not answered with the healing of his brother who has cystic fibrosis. But recently his brother peacefully said to him that there is so much suffering going on in the world today, that if God wants him to continue suffering with his disease, he is happy to offer it up for those who are in need around the world. Father pondered this loving, selfless comment from his brother who continues to suffer from constant medical treatments and the disease itself and wondered out loud during his homily, does God not grant certain healings because there is a greater good that comes from it instead? …
As I listened to Father’s homily, I thought back over my own life. One big thing popped out at me as Father spoke and memories ran through my mind of my father. He was hit by a drunk driver around Christmas time when he was 46 yrs. old and lived the rest of his life paralyzed, in and out of hospitals and rehabs and when home, had home health aides, nurses and doctors in and out of his home. How many pilgrimages and healing Masses we all went to asking God for Dad to be healed. How many tears we all cried when it happened, and throughout the years. I wondered, at times, "why didn’t God seem to answer our prayers either?", as Father continued pondering out loud in his homily. Why didn’t He heal my Dad?
Or did He answer prayers we didn’t even know to pray? Did He answer our prayers in another way? Did He bring about even more good in the midst of great suffering? Or rather, didn’t the intense suffering make the joyful times even more joyful? Didn’t He save my father’s life at the time of the accident and give him another chance to live life to the fullest in a different way, a more spiritual one? Didn’t He change all of our family’s lives (we are 4 siblings) at a crucial time in life when we were in college, high school and middle school to question life at a young age and aim our lives in a different direction? Didn’t He draw our family even closer as we learned to pray the Rosary while my Mom drove us every day to the trauma unit? Throughout the years as we traveled on pilgrimages praying for Dad, didn't He teach us how much more life itself is a pilgrimage and how to live it as such? As we prayed for our father to be healed, maybe God healed all of us and him in ways that are far more valuable and miraculous than a physical healing, which lasts just a life time. He gave us graces that will guide us to forever.
So why does God permit suffering? An age-old question that leads us always to the ultimate answer that never changes. God gave us His only Son so that we may have life and life in abundance. We must follow Him, and it doesn’t end at the suffering of the Cross but leads us to the Resurrection. Perfect joy and healing forever.
In memory of my beloved father, William E. Howard, who died March 27, 2012 surrounded by our family cheering him on to heaven.