Mt 25:31-46 Serving Is Hard To Do
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
It’s not often that it happens. But sometimes I just do not feel like making a hospital visit. I know this sounds horrible, but it is true. A few weeks ago I was so upset at my favorite Pro-Life center called Birth Choice. The receptionist had called me non-stop, three times in less than an hour, while I was on a retreat. They wanted me to visit a woman who had lost her baby. The child was premature and only survived an hour. I won’t get into the details but I basically told them to stop bothering me. After all, it’s a Saturday and didn’t they know that priests are extremely busy on Saturdays? Little did I know how holy this woman was and with her prayers and the Holy Spirit, they both managed to get me to visit her. In less than a half-hour, I left the retreat center, drove over an hour to get to Parkland and was able to see her that day.
Then, it happened again. I was doing some exercise and I received a phone call on the Emergency line. Again, all I could think was, “Tough! I need my time too!” But then I felt so guilty I called immediately and went straight to the hospital.
Serving is hard to do. But what I have realized in my life is that when it is the most difficult, then it is the most important. When I don’t feel like visiting a patient, I now know it is the patient I need to visit the most. When I don’t feel like hearing another confession, it is the confession that I most need to hear. The devil is at work, but so is the Holy Spirit!
Today, I had a minor medical procedure done. It was my first time to be on the other side, to be the lonely patient. It was routine for the doctor and nurses, but it was the first for me! Of course I thought the worst, that I would not wake up from the anesthesia or that the doctor would mess up or that I would have some sort of complication. Everything went very well, thanks be to God! While I was waiting in the pre-op room, I struck up a conversation with the nurse and I asked her to pray for me. I told her I was a Catholic priest. She told me that she was Catholic too and that she would not allow anything bad to happen to me. She said, “Don’t worry. We cannot afford to lose any priests. We need more of you guys!”
While they were wheeling me in, I saw the doctor and he was very pleasant, striking up a conversation and helping me to feel more at peace. I asked him if he knew what he was doing. He smiled. He asked me if I knew what he was about to do. I smiled and said, “I really don’t want to know. Whatever it is, do it quickly.” I always use passages from the Gospel when I’m a little nervous.
I don’t remember a thing after that. I woke up and saw a nurse and my good friend, Deacon Randy, next to me. Immediately I felt like a million dollars! I didn’t get much sleep the night before and asked the nurse if anesthesia gives you a good night sleep. He said, “Yes, but that’s what got Michael Jackson in trouble. The poor guy would fall asleep with anesthesia. Abusing it or using it too often will kill you. The doctor should have known better, much better.” The team of doctors and nurses did a fabulous job serving me and others. Unbeknown to them, they had learned this lesson from the Lord.
It seems as though the Gospel of the day always relates to my life. Serving others always means helping others overcome their fears and anxieties, regardless of what type of suffering is experienced. The medical staff did a great job. The Church does too, better than others. After all, what do you think would happen if you worked for an organization and broke every single rule they had? They would immediately fire you, ask you to never come back and impolitely invite you to not show your face around there again. Clearly, the Church is not of human origin for we welcome back the sinner; answer the call from the 30 plus years fallen away cradle Catholic; and we go out of our way to anoint and forgive the frightened heretic! It’s not an easy thing to do, but it is what the Church (Christ) did best. It is essential to who we are (the Body of Christ).
The Church started the first hospitals and universities and for good reason. Know the truth and once you know it, show compassion towards your stricken brother. That's what it is all about. Sin, like all illnesses, does not go away by just wishing it away or pretending it’s not there. Sin is real and so must compassion and mercy be real.
The Lord invites all Christians to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the ill and those in prison. The Lord invites us to do what he did for us: help those who suffer. But don’t they deserve what they get? Don’t they deserve to suffer for their lack of responsible behavior? We all know the answer, but do we understand it? The Lord reminds us that his father lets the rain fall on the good and bad.” There is plenty of grace to go around and those who have dug their grave the deepest tend to be the seeds that produce the greatest and most beautiful fruits for Christ. The Lord wants us to go and share the Good News to all, especially with our fallen brothers and sisters for they will become witnesses to us!
“You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. Though you may have to reprove him, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev 19:18)
Serving is hard to do, and allowing others to serve you might be just as hard. Are you confident that you can do it? The Lord is. And it is important that we try. After all, he commands us to “Be holy, for I, your God, am holy” (Lev. 19:1). This is not only a command from the Lord; it is a guarantee that we can do it.
The only way to experience this is to allow it to happen. This has been my experience and this is the season for experimenting.
Behold, this is a very acceptable time.