46. The Challenges of Sickness

We are co-creators with the Holy Spirit who enables us to consecrate every aspect of life as an offering to God’s glory.  Even sickness can be transfigured, and become the means by which we experience personally the reality of the Lord’s assurance, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  A brother’s illness affects the whole community and God will provide gifts of grace for us all.

The fragility of human life makes sickness inevitable.  When it befalls us we are to seek res­toration and play our full part in the process of healing.  This means radical dependence on Christ through our own prayer, the prayer of the community and our friends, and his ministry of healing mediated through the sacramental rite of Laying on of Hands and Anointing.  It involves our ready acceptance of medical means of healing.  The whole community joins the brother in his rejoicing when he is restored to health.

Sickness may compel us to be dependent on the care of others.  This may conflict with our pride and challenge our notion of self-sufficiency.  We are called to let go and accept the service of others gracefully.  It is an important expression of our vow of obedience to be open and cooperative with those who are looking after us in sickness.  Those who care for the sick should cherish this opportunity of service and realize that their caring may be the chief means by which the sufferer experiences the companionship and love of Christ.

Physical and mental illness may bring such suffering that our faith in God is put to the test. Our prayer for healing may not be answered in the way we desire.  We may have to come to terms with disability or incurable sickness.  Pain and fear may make us feel abandoned by God.  The springs of prayer may seem to dry up.  All of us should live day by day in growing dependence on Christ crucified so that we are prepared for such times of trial.  Our life is hidden with Christ in God.  God suffers with us.  In times of pain, when we are aware only of darkness, we will need sheer faith to assure us that we are still inseparably united to the God of love.

A brother may be so sick that he cannot play an active part in the liturgy and our ministries. But we should trust that the offering of sickness and weakness contributes powerfully to our total life in Christ.  Those who suffer are “completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”  And those of us who have been strengthened by God in sickness are able to use their experience to “console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.”


  1. Polly Henninger on April 12, 2009 at 02:52

    I have been challenged by illness for fifteen years, but I have never felt abandoned by God. I fear that I may never recover, and there are times I want to quit trying. Yet I have many moments of joy. It is then that I am aware that I am a co-creator with the Holy Spirit of the life that is mine. It is often hard to accept gracefully that I am disabled, to be marginalized, grateful simply to be included. I wish to be able. However, when I focus on the love I feel from others, that truly is independent of my wellness, I experience God’s grace.

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