I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, says the Lord,
but rather in his conversion, that he may live. ~ Ezekiel 33: 11
After Jesus called me to the Lenten fast of consoling, I happened upon an account by a cancer survivor, detailing not just her struggles with the disease, but also the hurt and unnecessary pain caused by medical professionals through their lack of empathy, lack of compassion and absence of professional thoroughness in helping this woman navigate the debilitating darkness that is cancer.
It reminded me of something I had experienced in the past with regards to cancer (I did not have cancer; it was something else). Reading that poor woman’s story this morning brought back the memory of that sudden, piercing aloneness when you’ve just received the diagnosis – made worse upon realizing that no one really cared. No one cared much about your emotions, your shock, about your fears of what lay ahead. They didn’t care that you were sitting there, blank, yet scrambling for questions… and answers. It mattered nothing to them that you were in shock, that your life had ground to a halt – and that it was simple charity to be sensitive to the patient’s place at that point in time – by refraining from joking with colleagues, talking about plans after work – until I got some grip on what I had just heard.
I didn’t care if it was the kind of news that they delivered to patients hundreds of times before; it was my first time hearing it and I deserved much better than what I got from the doctor leaning away to crack a joke with another doctor. I deserved way much more than a condescending look and a careless answer when I asked my first question about treatment options.
I had every right to concern and compassion that I didn’t get from those medical specialists. In that moment of my suffering, they were not healers. Their attitude was oppressive because it further compounded a Cross I barely even knew how to lift.
My experience only lasted a few excruciating hours. But how many men, women and children, face this sentence in reality each day, alone and isolated in their fears because hostile onlookers want no part in their pain?
So, today, I begin my fast for the oppressed as well as for the oppressors. Both are found everywhere, not just in hospitals and in doctors’ rooms. Some are in our places of work. Some are in our own homes. Not all are obvious, out in the open. Although it is far easier on me to cast those callous hearts aside and focus only on those in pain, I sense God is calling me to fast for the conversion of oppressors as well.
Knowing that I might just choose to focus my consoling on those suffering oppression, God gave me a sign right in front of my eyes. Returning from Mass, for close to 30 minutes on dark roads, God placed my superior’s car in front of us. Due to the heavy traffic, we had no choice but to trail this man cruel to so many for so long. 30 minutes was enough time to pretend not to see, make excuses and then to concede defeat to God and say, Ok, yes, I will console You for this man too.
Because just as I seek life, God wants oppressor hearts to be converted – that they too may live.