Recently I visited a young man in the National Rehabilitation unit in Dublin, his life had in a most tragic sense changed forever. The greatest gift that God can offer us, especially where we struggle, is his wonderful empathy…

Fr Paddy Byrne has a weekly column in the Carlow Nationalist.
This column appeared on 8th October 2008

Recently I was visiting a young man in the National Rehabilitation unit, in Dun Laoghaire, Dublin. Eighteen months ago this young man had a very active and healthy life. He worked as a prison officer and was busy building a life that was full of hope, for a very bright future. As he drove home one evening after a hurling match, his car went out of control and immediately his life had in a most tragic sense changed forever. This once fine healthy and bright young man, suffered immense physical and internal damage and as result his life remains extremely vulnerable. Tom is entirely dependent upon medication and constant care in order to survive. Paralyzed and still bruised his now tired body is but a shadow of what it once was. His communication remains through his eyes that are so often filled with tears and frustration, because of his great suffering that he endures every moment of the day. In his presence one cannot but struggle, not just in communicating, but perhaps much more in the human awkwardness that one feels when we are not in control, when words mean so little and life itself is so fragile. A good friend of Tom simply said it’s not fair.

This sentiment seemed so true, as we, with full use of our limbs and senses walked out the door of the hospital, and made our journey home, knowing that Tom, will continue to be paralyzed to the senses and faculties that we so often take for granted. So often in life we too can make a similar reflection, where we may not find any answers to difficult questions, where we can be overwhelmed and indeed out of control, we too may simply feel that life is not fair.

Perhaps as we mature and grow, we may appreciate, that life certainly is not black or white and there are far more questions than answers, in our search for meaning and relevance. When we consider the burdens of our story, perhaps financial trouble, illness, addiction, fear, bereavement or uncertainty, it is also important to reflect on the gift that is a living relationship with almighty God. A positive friendship with our creator is a powerful source of strength and consolation, an energy that allows us the opportunity to continue and begin again. Our God is one who patiently and lovingly awaits each one of us as we turn to him. Our God offers us confidence to realise that we are not alone but rather we belong to a love that is rich in mercy and compassion. Our God does not deafen us with absolutes but gives us glimpses of truth and love that reassures and sustains us as we often stumble and fall on the pathways of our human journey.

The greatest gift that God can offer us, especially where we struggle, is his wonderful empathy, expressed through the life of his Son Jesus of Nazareth. Where we may be lost, alone or overwhelmed, Jesus gently embraces us into the light of his peace and hope. Where life is unfair and great suffering prevail, may the gentle hand of Jesus offer strength and consolation.