June 15, 2008 Year A
Eleventh Sunday In Ordinary Time
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Theme: An Ocean of Love
When he saw the crowds he had compassion for them.
I have lived long enough to know that people die. Being the oldest of six living children, I recall my mother having 3 miscarriages. One of those precious gifts of God was buried in the back yard near a Lily. Something about the care and love of the least among us and the Christian hope of Resurrection was engraved in my memory.
Debbie and I sang at her Mother's funeral, who at a very young 48 years of age succumbed to ovarian cancer. But I have an Aunt who has been an ovarian cancer survivor of many years. And my Grandma Seibert came through breast cancer and died at the ripe old age of 92. I recall her saying she always believed she would grow old.
Jesus looked on the crowds and had compassion for them because 'they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.' It is to them we are to say, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." But how is it at hand? When we love the sick, the bereaved, the tormented, the dying and the dead, the power of the kingdom is present.
On a recent Faith and Culture program, Colleen Carroll Campbell interviewed Dr. Michael Brescia. The topic was Compassionate Care for the Dying. This riveting interview touched on the disconnect in our society toward those who are 'harassed and helpless.' Calvary Hospital is located in the Bronx, NY. It is here where Dr. Brescia has for many years assisted those in their final months, days and hours of terminal illness. Every patient and family member is treated as the very person of Christ at this renowned palliative care center.
Doctor Brescia described how every patient is approached, loved and cared for as if Jesus was the patient. The staff genuflects upon entering the patient's room, because they believe the words of Jesus who said, "I was sick and you visited me."
One such patient was Angela. She was brought to Calvary Hospital because the other hospital said they couldn't take care of her. Angela could not speak. There was no immediate family with her or anyone of authority who could speak for her. Dr. Brescia described her as having matted hair, rotten teeth and effusing from every orifice of her body. He asked to be her Physician.
Angela had a large tumor protruding from the side of her neck. She was consumed by AIDS and lung cancer. Angela could not speak. After Angela was admitted and bathed and made comfortable in her room, Dr. Brescia made his first visit. He took her by the hand and tenderly spoke to her from a heart filled with the love of Christ for the 'harassed and helpless.' He said to her, " I hope you had a daddy who loved you." " I hope you have had people in your life who valued you and cherished you." With these and similar words he poured the healing love of Jesus into this emaciated tormented woman.
About 8 O'clock one Sunday night, Dr. Brescia made his last visit to Angela. When he walked into her room he realized she was dying. As he had done in the past, he put down the bed rails and took Angela by the hand. Again he spoke with the love of a man who believed he was holding the very hand of Jesus. About 90 minutes passed and Angela who had never spoken, said, "Dr. Michael." Startled, Dr. Brescia heard Angela again say, "Dr. Michael." Standing closer to her so he could cradle her head in his hands she said, "In a few hours I'm going to see God. And I'm going to mention your name."
Doctor Michael Brescia stated that every one who dies at Calvary Hospital dies in an ocean of love. Calvary Hospital is a hospital love has built.
I understand we spend about a billion dollars a day to keep terror in check. That's about a trillion dollars a year. We could use just one day's billion dollars and help with the costs associated with the kind of care Calvary Hospital provides for the terminally ill and their families for the next 50 years. The word 'palliative' comes from a Latin word which means 'to throw a cover over the shoulders.' Often when nothing else could be done for the sick, a wrap was thrown over the shoulders to keep the sick comfortable.
Each one of us can be an ocean of love. Let us become close friends to Jesus and we will be able to bring Jesus near those who are 'harassed and helpless.' Miracles of both redemptive and physical manifestations can happen and will happen. The kingdom of heaven is an ocean of love. In the person of Jesus Christ, while were yet sinners, God loved us, and threw his arms around us and immersed us in the ocean of his love.
In the mercy and love of God let us throw our arms around the least, the lost and the lonely.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus you looked for me as a shepherd looking for his sheep. And then you spoke my name and wrote it down in the Lamb's Book of Life. Your love has healed me. Through me may your love flow for the salvation and healing of those near me. Amen.