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If you're ill, don't shy away from God.

There was a time when lepers had to carry bells and loudly announce their presence, so that the "clean" people would have time to seek shelter from them.

Illnesses were blamed in parental sins, or even farther back the family chain. When the AIDS epidemic first struck in the 1980s, they were those who were convinced that this was God's way of dealing out "justice" to homosexuals.

Illness can sometimes seem like an additional cross from God: "Great, I just started a new job, and the kids have different schools this year, and I haven' even thought about a summer vacation and sorry, what's that? Lupus. No. No, you don't understand, I don't have time for that.,,,,

That may be true. YOU don't. But GOD does. For whatever He also int our lives is good and life-giving. Facing any serious illness, chronic or life-threatening, is not something anyone puts on their calendar. It can also make things very difficult to explain to people.

Oh, people understand cancer, but lupus? Fibromyalgia? Nerve pain? And it's not really their fault that they don't always "get it." Those of us who suffer from chronic illness don't always "get it" either. We have a lot of "Why me??" moments.

St. Francis de Sales is quoted as saying, "The Prayer of the sick person is his patience and his acceptance of his sickness for the love of Jesus Christ. Make sickness itself a prayer, for there is none more powerful, save martyrdom!"

God, in His infinite wisdom and mercy, asks us to suffer with Him. For some, it is emotional. For others, it is physical or mental. For some, the suffering is short-term, and for others it lasts for years. Do not reject it! Use the suffering for good. Pray to Jesus to be united with Him in suffering, and allow any pain you have to do good in the world.

Trust in the sacraments, especially the Sacrament of the Sick. The grace there will truly strengthen you. And always ask Mary to be with you in your suffering. No one, save Christ, suffered more on their earthly journey that this Mother who had to watch Her Son, who was Innocence, suffer the death of a criminal. Mary will be with you.

Don't let illness or suffering keep you from God. He is asking much, but no more than we can give, with His grace.

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