Marco died a few days ago. I just got word today, on Good Friday. He was only 14 years old. I remember the exact day I met him, February 3rd of this year. The date is precise because it was Super Bowl Sunday. I had my whole day planned around doing nothing but watching the game, and then I got a call.
My cousin Guillo is a pediatric oncologist at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Of all the branches of medicine you can study, why oncology? And of all kinds of oncology, why pediatric? Guillo’s a saint. I don’t mean piously (although maybe he is), but charitably. He called me that Sunday morning to tell me a 14 year old boy from Barcelona had come to Miami as a last resort. He was battling cancer and cancer was winning.
I knew the Rams and the Patriots would have to wait. As I made my way to the oncology ward, I prayed Hail Mary’s, asking for guidance. What do you say? How do you comfort?
Marco was shy at first, but warmed up and spoke to me. He mostly asked questions, some of which I couldn’t answer. We sat and spoke, we sat and prayed, and we sat and hoped. I gave him what I could, the sacrament of anointing and a promise of prayer.
This year, Good Friday marks my third day of walking “El Camino de Santiago” with my Belen classmates. As I winced through the pain of sore muscles and blistered feet, I kept thinking of Marco. There was much pain for him through so many years of chemo and nausea, coupled with the fear of dying.
As I walked, I kept thinking of his parents, who will now make their way through life without their son. That’s real pain. I also thought about Jesus and the real pain behind his passion, his suffering, his sacrifice and his death. There were no hiking boots to protect his feet, no bottled water to quench his thirst, no classmates to share his journey.
The passion of Jesus did not eradicate suffering or death from the world. The Apostles were still martyred, the wars were still fought, and Marco still died. What the passion of Jesus did do, was help give suffering new meaning, new purpose. It helps us to carry our cross and walk alongside him towards Calvary. To share his pain, to share his sorrow. Little can bring us closer to Jesus.
But it doesn’t end there. This Friday is called good for a reason. We know the end of the story... Jesus wins. Jesus beat suffering and death. It has no victory, it has no sting (1 Corinthians 15:55).
I prayed a lot today for Marco’s parents as I walked 18 miles along the camino. I also prayed that the suffering of Jesus gives us all comfort and that his resurrection on Sunday gives us all hope.