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Column: A Difficult Process of Discernment

Everything Is Possible

As I started to write this article in the series “I’m on my way to happiness”, I received the sad news that my sister and her husband have been admitted to intensive care a Zurich hospital.  My relationship with them has been very close and unique.  When our mother died she told my sister “you just hold on to Guido”, and that is what my sister did.  All my vacations over the many years were spent with them in the mountains of Switzerland, but no matter how long I was with them, for her it was always too short.

I thought that in the current situation I should share with you how I live through this difficult situation.  It is easy for me to talk about “destination happiness” and “I’m on my way”, but how to live it when a crisis like this hits us hard.  Can one still be happy?  What about our faith and feelings? Is there room for sadness, or should we deny our emotions, and live in the bubble of faith?

Let me tell you what is going on.

My sister and her husband are older (72 and 80) and in poor health.  In the last five years, they have had many operations, and their physical condition is far from ideal for facing a covidvirus infection.  My brother-in-law could not possibly survive a ventilating machine, but my sister, who tired herself out with “mother’s anxieties and worries”, had to be put on the ventilator so she could breathe properly and get some rest. In such a bleak situation, I was thinking about their life.  They are very religious people, who attend daily Mass and the things of the Church are constantly on their minds. They had just sold their house, and it is hard for me to see them live without the other. So the logical conclusion is to ask God to let them go in peace, and for me to accept this painful moment of farewell.

Was I happy with this conclusion? 

In one way yes.  My mind was satisfied that I had reached the right conclusion, and also my faith could support it because, after all, “death is the gate towards deliverance of all our pains and ills.”  In my mind, I had found the perfect solution, and my faith had to help me to be happy.

At the same time, whenever memories of my sister and her husband come to mind, I start crying.  Once, I called a good friend and colleague of mine, just out of nowhere I started crying so strongly that I couldn’t speak a word.  Thus, I realized, that although intellectually I could deal with it, my spirit and emotions are suffering and find it difficult to accept.  This was a new experience in my life.  Am I really happy?  Not really, because my feelings cannot accept what I see with my brain and with faith.

At that point, I called a priest friend who is also a friend of my sister and brother-in-law, to ask him to pray.  As I tried to explain the critical situation, he kept interrupting me saying “all will be well”, “they are too young to die”, “you will see God will take care of them”.  At first, his strong reply startled me, but then I felt I was shaken out of my “intellectual approach” to the situation.  I saw that my attitude had excluded the possibility that God can and often will do the impossible. 

In Luke 18 a rich young man comes to Jesus who has kept all the commandments but cannot let go of his wealth. Jesus says about him, “how hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. Those who hear it said, “Then who can be saved?”  But then he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”  The great people in Scripture had lived by faith “that with God everything is possible”.  Abraham, our father of faith, believed even though his wife was beyond the childbearing age.  In Hebrews 11 we find a list of all those who have believed because they know that “without faith, we cannot please God”.

Now, at last, is my soul happy and peaceful, because I can live in hope that God’s love and mercy are with us!

Guido Gockel mhm

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