Dear Parish Family,
Have you ever had the experience of listening to the radio, a song is playing and you are immediately transported to another place and time. Or maybe, a smell or spoken phrase conjures memories long forgotten. In reading this week’s Gospel from John 9:1-41, the story of the man born blind, I was carried back in time to Alejandro Cabral Hospital in San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic.
Several years ago I had an opportunity as an ophthalmic operating room nurse to volunteer in a medical mission during Lent. Vision Health International was invited by the Diocese of Orlando to see and treat as many patients in a one week period as safely possible. The patients came from many communities as far away as Haiti - on donkey or walking, some alone and some with their entire family. Most had pre-registered tickets for admission to treatment, but some came without tickets in the hope of still seeing a doctor. A few patients believed that their vision loss was due to their sin, or God’s judgment on the sins of their family - resulting in blindness, disfigurement or vision loss.
Medical personnel came with surgical equipment, donated eye glasses, and supplies to treat any variety of illnesses – known or unknown. Some equipment never made it through customs or was “lost” in transport. Unpredictably, electricity in the hospital went out at least once a day. Most patients expressed anxiety and fear at the unknown mystery of surgery, but the joy and smiles expressed the day after surgery are moments I shall never forget. Hugs and kisses and tears of joy all around.
We brought crayons and coloring books for patients as a gift after surgery – for both young and old regardless of age. When one has had diminished sight over time, detail and color are new and vibrant. One young man in his late teens had poor eyesight from birth. He was so excited the day after surgery to see the color green in the trees. His joy brought all to tears.
In reflecting on this experience, I acknowledge I went to share my God-given skills. What I didn’t expect was to have an encounter with our Lord in the face of each and every person I had the privilege to serve. I pray our Lenten journey draws us ever closer to God. As Jesus emerged from his 40 days of fast and prayer in the desert, he was fortified to begin his public mission. Let us allow Jesus, the Divine physician, to heal us and make us new, so that we too may be energized to follow Him and proclaim His kingdom.