Refined by Fire

Reshma Kariyil

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18

At Easter mass last year, we were asked this question: “We are all here today because of someone…someone who brought you to the faith and helped you know Jesus. Who is that person?” For me, that person was my dad. Growing up, I watched my dad pray in front of the Divine Mercy picture of Jesus in our family room every day before going to work and as soon as he came home. As a nephrologist, my dad saw Jesus in his patients and treated them all with love and compassion. “Jesus can heal anything,” he told me once. It came as a shock to my whole family when my dad, who to us was always the one healing others, became sick himself. Although we always valued our faith as a family, it wasn’t until my dad’s illness that our faith went from being just another part of our lives to the center of our lives. My mom had already started watching Abhishekagni programs on YouTube and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, started a prayer at our home. In December 2013, my mom decided to take me, my dad, and my younger brother to our first Sehion Retreat in Dallas, TX. I remember sitting in awe as I watched Ainish Aunty and the other ministers bring each and every Word of God to life! I left that retreat rejuvenated with a new hunger for God’s Word and decided to join the ministry. Although we went to the retreat mainly to pray for my dad’s healing, my dad was not healed. I didn’t know it at the time, but God had bigger plans. I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” Jeremiah 29:11. Rather than being discouraged, we all came home with a new hope in God’s Word and healing power. Our family prayer now included praise and worship and the Word of God. To encourage my dad to walk, we would walk around the house with him and pray the stations of the cross. I, personally, found myself becoming more patient and loving in taking care of my dad. In faith, we were clearly all growing so much stronger! As time went on, however, my dad was becoming weaker. Finally, at the encouragement of one our family friends, we decided to take my dad to the shrine at Lourdes, France, where countless miracles and healings take place each year. We all thought, surely my dad would be healed there! I accompanied my mom and my dad, and we boarded the plane. Once again, God had a different plan. We wanted to take my dad to Lourdes, but in the plane itself, God took my dad to heaven…it is extremely hard to put into words what happened and what I felt in that moment. God is so cruel…I remember thinking these words as my mom and I came back home, now by ourselves, without my dad. We prayed, we trusted, we hoped. Why didn’t God answer our prayers? My dad himself told me that Jesus could heal anything and yet my dad was not healed. For a while, we all lost the new fire and faith we received. One day someone shared with me Malachi 3:3 “He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the Lord in righteousness…” From then on, I began to see my dad’s loss in a new light. He explained to me that when a silversmith purifies silver, he first holds the silver in the middle of the fire where it is hottest. Second, he never takes his eyes off of the silver so that it does not become destroyed in the flames. Third, he knows that the silver is ready to come out of the fire when it is so pure that he can see his face reflected beautifully in it…I thought that God had abandoned us, that he did not see us, and that we lost my dad because God did not hear our prayers. In reality, through all the suffering, God was holding my dad in His hands, purifying him, and took him at the time He knew was the right. Today, my mom, my three siblings, and I are all serving the Lord in ministry, and the Lord has joined so many loving brothers and sisters in Christ to our family. Psalm 119:71 says “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.” It is easy to focus only on the things of this world, but ultimately we were all made for heaven. Through every suffering and every trial, God reminds us of this truth and brings us one step closer to him. I miss my dad very much, but I know that he is watching over us now from heaven even more closely than he could before. As St. Therese of Lisieux said when she lost her father, “God has taken from us him whom we loved so tenderly – was it not that we might be able to say more truly than ever: ‘Our Father Who art in Heaven’? How consoling is this divine word, and what vast horizons it opens before us!”