COVID-19: A pastor’s perspective: The Possibilities that Accompany Suffering
In this time of the pandemic, I suppose we all have our coping mechanisms. These actions enable us to embrace this unprecedented time and deal with the changes and challenges of this moment. The hope is that the mechanisms we turn to are positive and productive. There are a long list of options that include prayer, reading, exercise and perhaps some much needed rest.
In recent weeks, I have turned to spring cleaning. This exercise is not so much about dusting as it is about assessing, organizing, sorting and purging through all that I have accumulated in the 11 years of ministry in my current assignment.
Whenever I engage in this endeavor, every so many years, I find that it becomes like a treasure hunt inasmuch as I discover or rediscover things that I have forgotten about. Many of these so-called things are not objects but words found in cards, letters, homilies and talks.
Ever since I was on the high school forensics team, I have always enjoyed a good quote. It is not uncommon for me to see a quote and write it down for future use. As a public speaker and writer, I am well aware of the power of a good quote.
The other day, as I was cleaning out my desk, I discovered a shriveled piece of paper. I opened it up and, lo and behold, there were two quotes that I had written down. The first quote came from St. Gemma: “If you really want to love Jesus, first learn to suffer because suffering teaches you to love.”
The second was from Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. He said: “The great tragedy of the world is not what people suffer, but how much they miss when they suffer. Nothing is quite as depressing as wasted pain, agony without an ultimate meaning or purpose.”
As painful as suffering can be, it need not be perceived as an obstacle. Every experience of suffering can become an opportunity pregnant with possibilities. Any form of suffering can be like a classroom filled with a wealth of lessons that mold us into the person God desires us to become.
Sadly, at the first onset of pain our world teaches us to numb it. More and more we live in a culture that does everything possible to eradicate pain and suffering. But in life there are some necessary hurts that we will inevitably incur, which need not make us bitter but better.
A few years ago, I accompanied a young woman who had 11 surgeries. She had an aggressive form of cancer that just kept spreading. As she neared the end of her life, she confided in me that her suffering was a real gift. What initially appeared as a burden became for her a blessing. Anyone who is a person of faith can appreciate the value of suffering.
Suffering is always a test to show how much we trust and love God. The sufferings of the pandemic are a blessed moment for us to recommit ourselves to God. This is also a graced time to open our minds and hearts to the fruits that come through suffering. Above all, this is a time to be reminded of the greatest coping mechanism of all — our faith in God. Dear God, help us not to waste this suffering!
FATHER DAVID J. BONNAR, editor of The Priest, is a pastor of 15 years in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, where he has served in numerous roles. Follow and like The Priest magazine on Facebook.