To visit the sick can mean many different things; visiting shut ins, those in hospitals and nursing homes are the most obvious. But it can also include taking the time and effort to contact those living alone without much family who feel isolated and alone, deprived of the basic need for “friendship.” One thinks especially of the elderly in our communities who, whether at home or in long-term care facilities, live in geographical isolation from their loved ones.”
Our mere presence, as someone who cares and is willing to listen to their stories will mean so much.. Everyone has a story to tell, you know. Willing to be a friend and a listening ear, can mean much more to them than we can imagine. Also, focusing on others is the best way to shed our own preoccupation with our needs!
Visiting and healing the sick were central to Jesus’ ministry. One of his first miracles was the healing of Peter’s mother in law. Jesus in His compassion healed the lame, the blind, the dumb and those with mental and spiritual infirmities. Visiting the sick is an opportunity for us to do the work of Jesus… for us to be instruments of that healing grace that touches mind, body, and soul. It also gives us the chance to reflect on our own humanity and mortality.
If you should feel a little awkward or squeamish about visiting the sick you might consider taking a friend with you that may help in engaging in conversation. Maybe you all can pray together. “Wherever two or more are gathered together in my name, I am in your midst.” (Matthew 18:20) You will be giving far more than your time. You will be giving the sick a sense of worth, knowing they are not forgotten, by you and Jesus, as well!
In visiting the sick, we uphold the dignity of the human person. Consider the feelings of those who spend so much time in hospitals and nursing homes without the comfort of those they love. How many of our elderly are permanently confined to a stark building with little love or attention paid to them? There are so many in our nursing homes and so little staff to address their needs beyond getting them up in the morning, providing meals, and putting them to bed at night. That is a lot of unattended hours to sit isolated.
Some people are terrified of hospitals. Others simply fear pain and the prospect of their own diminishment. I don’t know about you but I don’t like to think about aging and all the losses that go with it. Jesus himself was afraid of death in the Agony in the Garden. If the Lord can be afraid, then it is OK for us, too. Trust in Jesus!
Coming to peace with our own human finiteness and vulnerability, is an important journey that we must all undertake. But it is a task we cannot do alone. We need support. Many sick people experience the loneliness of abandonment from relatives and others who do not want to be reminded of their own mortality. Christ calls us to ‘visit the sick’ and care for them as an essential part of our Christian mission of love and compassion.
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