Signs of His Presence
Silvia discovers signs of God's love in the midst of challenging circumstances
My family and I traveled to Italy for the Christmas holiday to spend time with our families. On December 30, I met my dad’s oncologist, and, unfortunately, she told me the last CT scan did not go well. She explained that there are no other treatment options, and that his life expectancy is less than one year.
One is never ready to receive this kind of news, even though when he was diagnosed with cancer in July 2020 I was told he could not be cured. I had many reasons to be upset with God, but instead, in that conversation with the oncologist and afterwards, I experienced the preference of God towards me. I am the contact person for my dad’s oncologist, and I have been talking to her over the phone since the diagnosis, having met in person only once. That day, I was able to receive the worst news I could receive about my dad’s illness in person. As soon as I walked out of the oncologist’s office, I recognized what happened as a big sign of His love towards me. What a preference He has for me! It was a little miracle for me to be able to recognize His Presence in such a painful circumstance.
I have always thought about illness and death as something bad. Even if there is a lot (a lot!) of suffering, I can now say the illness and even death are not the last words. There is a life even in the illness, but it has to be discovered and recognized every day. Very little time has passed since December 30, and I see in myself the temptation to say “when everything is over with the illness of my dad I will start to live again.” How can I overcome this temptation? It is not enough to simply remember the beautiful things that happened during this time of his illness and it is not enough to recall what happened in the office of the oncologist.
I do not want to fall into the temptation to say “when everything is over, I’ll be fine. Sure it’ll take time but I’ll be fine sooner or later.” I have the need to keep experiencing the illness of my dad as something beautiful. Something beautiful NOW! I do not want to live the illness of my dad in survival mode. I want to be happy even in this painful circumstance.
I pray and ask God to show me signs of His love. This is what I need. Signs of His Love are the verification that the Christian experience holds up even in this painful situation. This becomes a begging, a prayer. Up until now, I have always continually received signs of his love, which is why I am still here. But I need to verify this every day. I want to take seriously the need of my heart and verify whether the Christian experience holds up in front of my daily challenges.
I recently understood that this is similar to my experience with the decree regarding lay associations promulgated last June by the Dicastery of Laity, Family and Life. I often have the temptation to say “let’s overcome these two years and as soon as the new statutes are approved and we have a new president and a new Diaconia, the Movement will flourish again.” I can go beyond this temptation only if I ask myself what the Movement is for me.
It is not an organization or a series of rules (even if sometimes I treat the Movement like that. How bad my days become when I treat the Movement like that!). I still remember when I met Communion and Liberation during high school: I was fascinated by some friends of my parish, though I did not know what the Movement was. These friends were happy. I only knew that I wanted to stay with them and become like them. Staying with these friends was like being “reborn” and I have discovered it is only if I live this experience of being “reborn” now that I can stay in front of the decree without falling into the aforementioned temptation. Within this companionship I can stay in front of the decree with an expectant awaiting, which means that I am curious to see what my experience in the Movement (the hundredfold!) will reveal to me through this process of responding to the decree.
In both circumstances, the idea that somehow once the painful circumstances are over I will go back to living does not respond to the ultimate need that I have, which is to live now, to be happy now. My hope is not that the circumstances of my dad’s illness change or that the situation we face as a Movement magically resolves. My hope is that there is One who gives meaning to the present moment, and my responsibility is to beg Him to show me signs of His Presence.
Silvia, New York, NY