A few months ago, I was going through a rough time with my cancer treatments — seven weeks of chemotherapy (three hours every Monday afternoon) and 30 consecutive treatments of radiation.
About two weeks into the radiation treatments, I had an unforgettable spiritual experience.
I found the few minutes of radiation were either slightly uncomfortable or downright painful. I had to stretch out my arms above my head.
For many years I have had degenerative arthritic discs from my neck to my lower back. On this particular day I was really hurting.
Then my wonderful radiation nurse said very gently, “It’s over, relax your arms now.”
I was taken aback when my eyes filled with tears. My radiation nurse (whom I knew well as she is the mother of one of our Tolton Catholic graduates where I have been chaplain for 10 years) asked me if I was okay.
I told her that when she told to relax my arms it was over I began to think of Jesus on the Cross. I responded that the angels and the Father probably whispered the same thing to Him on the Cross.
It made me strongly feel the loving presence of Jesus at a very vulnerable moment in my life. As I explained this, her eyes brimmed with tears as well.
The other radiation nurses came into the room and gently asked if we were okay. As I explained it to them, their eyes misted up as well.
I would never be arrogant enough to think my suffering was anything close to Jesus’. But this experience reminded me of how Jesus enters our suffering with us. That’s the power of the Cross.
Centuries ago, the cross was a symbol of absolute horror. Jesus turned it into the greatest symbol of hope.
The cross reminds me of my favorite Scripture verse: “Remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the world,” (Matthew 28:20).
Praise You, Lord Jesus, for the great gift of the Cross!
Fr. Coleman is pastor of Holy Spirit Parish in Centralia and chaplain at Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbia.