Epiphany 6: What the Light Shines Through

Testimony © Jan L. Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Epiphany 6, Year B: Mark 1.40-45

Last week the news came that a friend of mine has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. It is large, and it is grim; the doctors measure his life in months, perhaps weeks. A stained glass artist who has devoted his life to finding beautiful ways to capture light, Joe—making his own path as ever—is finding other ways to measure and mark these remaining days. The threads of community that he has tended across the years in such places as the Grünewald Guild are gathering around him now to support him and to make it possible for him to be in places he loves; friends and family have enabled him to return to his home and studio at the artists’ community where he lives, and folks from the Guild are plotting a trip where they’ll bring Joe back up there.

Living on the other side of the country, I am missing being present for this but am grateful for the words that come across the miles, words that tell of how Joe is entering his dying in much the same way that he has entered his living. The tumor has impacted his speech and visual recognition skills. But a note comes from a friend who writes of how even when Joe struggles with words, “he seems, to me, even more himself than ever. He’s almost translucent with grace. And I have been so moved by the ‘random’ words that, at times, come instead of the one he’s trying for. It’s almost as if the words that he has most often expressed come easily; blessing, blest, grace, friends, church, my voice, your voice…”

I gather up these words as I ponder the words that Mark offers in the reading from his Gospel this week, words about a leper who finds healing in his encounter with Jesus. “If you choose, you can make me clean,” he says to Jesus. Stretching out his hand and touching him, Jesus says, “I do choose. Be made clean!”

It is a mystery to me how Jesus chooses, and where, and why. I cannot fathom how he chooses at times to stretch out his hand, and at other times seems to withhold it; how he chooses against the restoration that he offers with such ease in stories such as this one. Why the leper, and not Joe? Why the mother-in-law of Simon, as we saw last week, and not millions of others across the ages who have lived with illness and pain?

I know, of course, there are few answers to these questions in this lifetime. And I know that it is better to look for the miracles that do come, including the daily wonders of connection in the midst of a world that pushes us toward isolation, the marvels of friendship and community that return to us and gather around us when life breaks us open.

I do not let Christ off the hook for the ways he sometimes chooses. And yet I think about my friend across the country, speaking the words that have come most easily to him. Blessing. Blest. Grace. How in the midst of the tumor that grows and the days that dwindle, there is something in him that is fiercely intact and persistently whole. Friends. Church. That knows still how to capture the light. My voice. Your voice. That rises up to freely proclaim, to offer testimony in the luminous way he has always done and will do until the last breath leaves him.

Joe is having an exhibit at his studio this weekend, wanting to have this chance to share with friends his artwork from across the years. “Bring food. Bring joy,” Joe says in the invitation.

This day. This hour. In each moment given to us, may we bring sustenance. May we bring joy. Whatever illness we bear, whatever wounds we carry, may we be ministers of healing to one another, and may the wholeness that persists within us rise up and shine through, offering testimony in the ways that only we can offer.

What the Light Shines Through
A Healing Blessing

For Joe

Where pain
does not touch you.
Where hurt
does not make its home.
Where despair
does not haunt you.
Where sorrow
does not dwell.

Where disease
does not possess you.
Where death
does not abide.
Where horror
does not hold you.
Where fear
does not raise its head.

Where your wounds
become doorways.
Where your scars
become sacred maps.
Where tears
become pools of gladness.
Where delight
attends your way.

Where every kindness
you have offered
returns to you.
Where each blessing
you have given
makes its way back
to you.
Where every grace
gathers around you.
Where the face of love
mirrors your gaze.

Where you are
what the light
shines through.

Joe in the studio. Photo by Kristen Gilje.

P.S. For a previous reflection on this passage, visit The Medium and the Message.

[To use the “Testimony” image, please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!]

14 Responses to “Epiphany 6: What the Light Shines Through”

  1. Barbara Says:

    Your selection this morning is lovely, Jan. My heart goes out to you and all who love your friend.
    Peace, Barbara

  2. Fisherwife Says:

    Thanks be to God! He is the Great Physician. Thank you for this beautiful reflection.

  3. Laura Says:

    I am sorry for the struggles that your friend must endure in these days ahead. I wanted to share something that I heard this week…. “God sometimes cures; God always heals”. I listened to a lecture from the brother of a physician who also had a brain tumor and wrote a book about his experience called “Not the Last Goodbye” (David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD). It is an insightful book for all of us in the healing professions. Blessings for your friend and all those who love him.

  4. Maureen Says:

    I have a friend, also an artist, who has brain cancer for which there is no cure. I have found her deep hold on faith to be so inspirational. Your friend Joe would seem to hold it close, too. Your poem is a beautiful blessing. May Joe’s eyes always see the Light. May he always be a reflection of it.

  5. Mary Ann Sinclair Says:

    Jan, Amazing and moving. We spent an evening with Joe the weekend before his show. Actually, a personal purusing of one of his portfolio…200 plus drawings. He is such a gentle soul. His spirit and God’s Spirit meet and radiate. We felt blessed. He is so encouraging to us as artists…passsionate even. In a time of physical weakness, he is strong medicine for us.
    Mary Ann

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Many thanks, Mary Ann. I’m so glad that you got to spend time with Joe and his drawings. I saw the video of some of his art show, and was so taken by the the work that covered his walls—how full of life and color and energy they are. Yes—he is strong medicine indeed, and I know he is finding strong medicine in the folks around him. Thank you for being among them. Blessings!

  6. Mary McLeod Says:

    I went to Joe’s exhibit/gathering with Doug last Friday, and went again with Anna on Saturday night. When Doug and I arrived, we were the first there. With apprehension, as we were driving to this event, we wondered if we would find the Joe we so loved and knew. As we walked in the doors of the great old elementary school/condo/studio, we heard is familiar voice resonating down the hall. In everyway as we kissed and embraced him, he was our Joe. Doug and I were so amazed at all his beautiful art studies on the wall. We wanted to take time to have him enlighten us on the meaning of each one, but as we selected pieces to buy and love, we knew that his story for each painting would unfold as it would for us, in its own time. I was so moved and inspired by Joe’s quality of life on Friday night, I knew that I needed to return with a gift to be birthed from me to Joe at this time. There is more history to the story of how this art I gave him began, but to keep this brief, it was a calligraphic luminary inspired by stain glass, Joe, text, light and color. I had little time to create it on Saturday before I returned to Joe’s exhibit with Anna, but at times like this, the creating is more about trusting the process will be just as it needs to be. I thank God that I took this time to soak in Joe’s light and life in my art making. Thank you so much for your beautiful poem. I do believe that another piece related to Joe will be on the horizon. Peace and grace to you Jan.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Beautiful! Thank you so much for sharing this, Mary. I hope you took pictures of your gift-? Would love to see it. It sounds gorgeous and so heartfelt, and I know it must be a real blessing to Joe, as was your presence. Thank you and blessings to you and yours.

  7. Kristen Says:

    Hi Jan. I return to this reflection as I grieve death. I look forward to seeing Joe Sunday, alive. He called yesterday. Passionate as ever, about life in general. But more focused, and insistent on blessing me. ME! Passion for life focused: Does that make one more luminous?

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Yes! Wonderful. So glad you’ll be seeing him. It’s great to hear stories about how Joe is still so Joe. Please give him a hug from me—and from Gary, too. He is so much on our minds and hearts. Blessings on your time together.

  8. Linda Goddard Says:

    Hello Jan,

    I am so touched by your Blessing and Sacred Words for Joe. And though I, too, live on the other side of the States from Joe, I do carry these days of his journey with me. What else can I do but pray these days as a way to walk beside Joe?


    I met Joe once at a Guild retreat…what an amazing spirit. And Jan, your poetry and art have inspired me daily since I was first introduced to your work in 2004. Thanks be for both of you.


  10. Donna Butler Says:

    I feel with you how hard it is for you to be at a distance when your friend is dying. It seems he is dying the way that he lived. What a beautiful person he must be!

    Just this past week Iwent to a funeral of my sister=in-law’s sister. When the doctor told her she could do no more, Beth let out a terrible wail. Yet she recovered her sense of humor before she died, asking for the song which begins “I’m not here for a long time. I’m just here for a good time… ” Beth was 52.

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