One of my 6 year old boy’s favourite songs that he likes to repeat over and over again (well it’s more the first line of the chorus rather than the whole song) is “Just a Spoonful of Sugar helps the medicine go down…” from the hit musical Mary Poppins! I guess he just loves the catchy style and easy to sing-along nature of it. There was something of this more palatable message of sin, conversion, repentance and healing that came across this last weekend when I saw the images and reports of the visit of Pope Francis to the childrens hospital in Mexico. There was even a moving photo of the Holy Father assisting the clinic in launching a polio vaccine by administering the drug to a little boy.
A little bit of kindness can go a long way when recovering from illness, he told a group of young patients. “Not only medicine but also ‘kindness therapy’ can make you live your time here with greater joy,” And then he evidenced that by embracing the youngsters and filling them with spiritual and emotional delight by chatting to each of them and making a gift of Rosary beads to them, asking their prayers. As, I’ve said before we mustn’t underestimate the power and efficacy of childrens’ prayers especially those of sick children.
Lent, as we know, is that season of penance; time to administer to ourselves some much needed spiritual medicine to help us overcome the sickness in our souls, our sinfulness, towards being better and healed inwardly. As Catholics we know that the best “medicine” for this sickness are the sacraments of the Holy Eucharist and of Reconciliation, and we also know that it often feels better and more fitting to make sure the latter precedes the former. Parents know how sometimes one has to sweeten the medicines we administer to young children, in order for them to find them palatable enough to take and swallow so that they can get better and recover. It’s the same with allowing the Lord, the Divine Physician, to administer his healing grace to us through the sacrament of penance (confession). It can sometimes feel like a difficult “medicine” or “treatment” to take, especially if there is something heavy weighing on the conscience or it’s been a long time since we last availed ourselves of the sacrament. So what we have to do is view the confessional as less of a tribunal (though it is in a sense a very sacred tribunal) and more of what the pope calls “kindness therapy.” The Lord Jesus’s dying words on the Cross were; “I thirst.” That is to say his thirst for souls, for you and me and everyone without exception. He awaits us then in the confessional with arms outstretched, yearning for us to run to him. He only wants to enfold us in loving kindness. So why delay? Take the medicine, it’s sweeter than we think and far more palatable than we imagine it to be. Be kind to yourself this Lent, so that you in your turn can bestow abundant kindness and mercy on those around you, especially in the same household.