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Jan 13, 2024 925 Liz Kelly Stanchina
Encounter

Meeting the Good Samaritan

The burdens of life can weigh us down, but take heart! The Good Samaritan waits on you

In the past few years, I have traveled from Portland, Oregon, to Portland, Maine, literally crisscrossing the country, speaking and leading women’s retreats. I love my work and am often humbled by it. To travel and meet so many faithful women on their knees, seeking the face of the Lord, is one of the greatest graces of my life.

But earlier this year, my work came to a halt when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my second bout. Thankfully, we caught it very early; it had not spread. We weighed our options for treatment and settled on a double mastectomy. We had hoped that following that surgery, no further treatment would be required. But when they got a good look at the tumor under a microscope, it was determined that my recurrence rate would lower significantly with a few rounds of preventative chemo.

With a heart full of dread and pictures of me nauseated and going bald running through my head, I called the oncologist and made an appointment. Just then, my husband walked in from work and said: “I just got laid off.”

Sometimes, when it rains, it is monsoons.

Mayday, Mayday

So, with no income and the prospect of overwhelming medical bills about to assail our mailbox, we prepared for my treatments. My husband diligently sent out resumes and garnered a few interviews. We were hopeful.

Chemo, for me, it turned out, was not too nauseating but terribly painful. The bone pain had me in tears at times, and nothing alleviated it. I was grateful that my husband was home and could help take care of me. Even in the moments when there was nothing he could do, just having him nearby was a great comfort. It was an unexpected grace in his having been laid off. We trusted in God’s plan.

The weeks went on. My hair decided to take an extended vacation, my energy waned, and I did what little work I could. No job offers came in for my talented husband. We prayed, we fasted, we trusted in the Lord, and we began to feel the strain of the season.

Struck to the Core

This year, my women’s prayer group is praying through the masterwork Divine Intimacy by Father Gabriel of Saint Mary Magdalene. One Sunday, when I didn’t feel l could carry these burdens another step, his reflection on the Good Samaritan struck me to the core. You recall the beloved parable from Luke 10 when a man is robbed, beaten, and left on the side of the road. A priest and Levite pass him by, offering no aid. Only the Samaritan stops to tend to him. Father Gabriel reflects: “We, too, have encountered robbers on our way. The world, the devil, and our passions have stripped and wounded us … With infinite love [the Good Samaritan par excellence] has bent over our open wounds, curing them with the oil and wine of His grace … Then He took us in His arms and brought us to a safe place.” (Divine Intimacy #273)

How keenly I felt about this passage! My husband and I do feel robbed, beaten, and abandoned. We’ve been stripped of our income, our work, our dignity. We’ve been robbed of my breasts, my health, even my hair. As I prayed, I had a strong sense of the Lord stooping over us, anointing and healing us, and then taking me into His arms and carrying me while my husband walked along with us, taking us to a place of safety. I was flooded with tears of relief and gratitude.

Father. Gabriel goes on to say: “We should go to Mass in order to meet Him, the Good Samaritan … When He comes to us in Holy Communion, He will heal our wounds, not only our exterior wounds, but our interior ones also, abundantly pouring into them the sweet oil and strengthening wine of His grace.”

Later that day, we went to Confession and Mass. We had a beautiful visiting priest from Africa whose reverence and gentleness washed over me at once. He prayed for me in confession, asking the Lord to give me the desires of my heart—dignified work for my husband—and to heal me. By the time it came for Communion, I was weeping on my way up to meet the Good Samaritan, knowing He was carrying us to a place of safety—in Him.

Never Pass Me By

I know this may or may not mean my husband gets a job, or I get through chemo without too much pain. But there isn’t a doubt in my mind, heart, or body that I met the Good Samaritan in that Holy Eucharist. He would not pass me but would stop and tend to me and my wounds. He was as real to me as He has ever been, and even though my husband and I are still feeling beaten, I thank the Lord for being so present to us as the Good Samaritan who stops, tends, heals, and then gathers us up to a place of safety.

His safety is not the world’s safety. To stand and wait in the midst of this “attack,” this robbery, is some of the hardest spiritual work I have ever been invited to do. Oh, but I trust our Good Samaritan par excellence. He is waiting there to carry me—to gather up anyone who feels robbed, beaten, and abandoned—and, through the Blessed Sacrament, set his seal of safety upon our hearts and souls.

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Liz Kelly Stanchina

Liz Kelly Stanchina is the award-winning author of more than ten books. She holds advanced degrees in Catholic Studies and Creative Writing and travels the world speaking and leading retreats.

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