Fourth Sunday of Lent


by Lucinda M. Vardey

In Jesus’ time physical afflictions were interpreted to be a sign of sinfulness and children with disabilities were believed to be bodily bearing the wrongs of their parents.  Jesus’ ministry and crucifixion undid that presumption.

In our Christian understanding suffering is not a sign of sin but an opportunity within the challenges of life to share love.  Reviled on the cross Jesus taught that compassion and mercy may not be received but it could instead be extended even in the most dire of circumstances.

A modern-day example presents itself in the life of a young Italian woman called Benedetta Bianchi Porro.  During the l960s, she accepted Christ’s calling to take up the cross of her suffering with courage and a hope-filled heart.  Diagnosed with a rare nerve disease which paralyzed her entire body, causing her to live in the darkness and isolation of deafness and blindness, she extended the light of Jesus’ wisdom and gentleness to all who visited her.  As she came to recognize her advancing illness as a means of unity with the agony of Jesus, she offered her daily sufferings to alleviate the sufferings of others.   Through sign language with one hand, she consoled the despairing, comforted the confused and enlightened the faithless.   Now recognized as Venerable by the Church, Benedetta taught that God’s healing power comes in a number of guises testing our faith, transforming our souls, purifying our intentions and renewing our spirits in hope towards holiness.

As Psalm 23 states: “Even in the darkest valley I fear no evil, for you are with me.”