One of my joys as bishop is traveling to different communities in the diocese. When I visit parishes and schools, I learn more about the unique history and characteristics of the community. I love talking with the people of our diocese and hearing their stories of how God has touched their lives.
While there is great joy in hearing these stories, often people also share their pain with me. For instance, I recently visited a parish where I learned of the challenges in the community related to poverty and drug addiction, something which unfortunately seems to be a growing issue throughout our diocese. Another example was a recent meeting I had with people who had been affected by abuse. While listening to these stories can be heartbreaking, I consider it a privilege to be able to sit with people in their most difficult moments.
Unfortunately, as I look around our diocese, and the world for that matter, it seems that there are so many people hurting. We see this when we turn on the evening news and in the conversations we have with people in our lives who are dealing with difficult medical issues, or the pain of divorce, or the loss of a loved one. Our diocese, like other areas, is also experiencing the rise of suicide and depression, especially among our young people.
These are sad realities of the modern world and it is right for us to grieve when we experience them. There is no question that the cost of darkness and sin are ever present among us. Sometimes we are asked to bear suffering as an act of love for God and others. In fact, Jesus himself suffered and died on the cross as an act of love and redemption. However, the Christian story is not all about suffering and sadness and death, it is also about healing and hope and new life.
This truth is evident throughout the Scriptures but most clearly in the life of Jesus Christ. God became human in order to walk with us in our suffering.
Jesus devoted his life to healing people physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and socially. Jesus wept with Martha and Mary at the death of his close friend Lazarus. Jesus wants to bring healing to each of us today.
However, in order to receive this healing, we must be open to Christ and be willing to ask for help. Jesus never healed people against their will. Instead, when someone approached him, he simply asked, “What do you want?” So, in order to be healed, as painful as it might be, we must acknowledge our emptiness and ask Christ to fill us up. When we do, he will always come through for us, though it might not always be in the way we expect.
So, I invite us all to spend time reflecting on where we are in need of healing and inviting Jesus to heal us. Read the stories of Jesus’ healings in the Gospels to discover what God wants for us. Turn to God in prayer and ask for healing. Seek Christ in the sacraments. Ask others to pray with you and for you. If you don’t know someone who will pray for you, contact your parish.
Also, don’t be afraid to seek professional help, if necessary. One of the primary ways that God heals us is through other people. I urge you to contact Catholic Charities and they, too, can help as a source of healing in your life.
Finally, as we experience Christ’s healing, we must also ask the Holy Spirit to help us see opportunities where we can be a source of healing for others. Perhaps God is inviting us to be present with others in their suffering, or to pray for others.
I am confident that when we, as a diocese, humbly ask Jesus to bring healing to our lives, we will be renewed and able to share Christ’s healing presence with the world.
Follow Bishop Ricken on Twitter, @BpDavidRicken.