"A lay Catholic perspective"

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An Experience of Suffering

by Father Egbert Stang, omi


O N JULY 17, 1995 I suddenly felt an extremely sharp pain in my right side and ended up being taken by ambulance to a hospital. For seven days, I was tested with all the modern technology, cleansed and left with a big question mark as to the source of the pain and the internal bleeding. Since I was confined to a hospital bed hooked up to an IV machine and stomach cleaner, I was not able to get up and celebrate the Eucharist. However, the kind hospital chaplains brought me Communion each day and I was able to focus on the daily Scripture readings.

These readings were just what I needed to deal with my situation. The passage that struck me the most was from Matthew's Gospel 11:25-30 in which Jesus is praying for me to whom he has revealed the Father and Jesus and their Spirit. Then Jesus said to me personally:

Egbert, come to me with your weariness inside and burdens outside, so that I can give you rest from these. Now take on your shoulders my yoke (that I will carry with you) and learn from me to be gentle and humble toward others, God and yourself. In this way you will find rest for your soul. You will find that my yoke is easy and my burden light.

Another great help for me in the hospital was recalling what the present Holy Father said a few years ago to those who suffer. He outlined what he called "three little lights" that will help those who suffer: first see suffering present in its reality, then accept it in faith that God can work good out of it, and most important of all, offer it up out of love for God and all of humanity. Applying this to my situation brought me serenity and hope and great inner freedom. Suffering was not useless, on the contrary, it had great meaning. It gave me a special mission!