Recently, I was called to a home of a terminal ill man in my local area of the Bronx. Upon arriving I could tell the man was not going to last long. I was invited to sit in the room with the man and his hospice nurse, as his sister was finishing business with a case worker. At first, I thought the sick man was to ‘drugged up’ to feel or respond to anything. My assumption was wrong. I was sitting next to the ill man, when his hospice nurse grabbed his hand and started to gently stroke it. Upon receiving that touch the breathing of the ill man softened and his eyes moved to look at his hand. For a second I could see a softness overcome his eyes that was then followed by peace. Shortly after this moment his family gathers around him, and I anointed him. He died a few hours later.
One of the things that have humbled me about become the priest is the work I am called to do with my hands. I am about 7 months into my priesthood and I lost count of the number of things and people I have blessed. The number of times I poured water on a child baptizing them, and applied the holy oil to the sick. Then of course there is the eucharist I get to hold at mass and offer to the people of God. I am beginning to understand the power and the responsibility that have been entrusted to my hands through the anointing they received from the Bishop.
I will it.
I find myself, every now and again, being drawn to Matthew 8:3 “He [a leper] stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I will it. Be made clean.” His leprosy was cleansed immediately.” My mind wants to rest upon the face of the leper, but the Lord keeps me from seeing his face, but what I am given is the sense of joy that the man had for Jesus. Joy seems such a foreign concept at times of great pain, suffering, and illness. Still, I cannot help but believe that joy is something always offered through the touch of Christ.
That My Joy Might remain …
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full (John 15: 11).” Christ desires joy for us. He speaks these words to the apostles as he is preparing for his own death. During the darkest time of his life, Jesus speaks words of joy to those he loves! Having been an ill person, spending weeks in the hospital, isolated from others because of disease, I know the desire for human contact. Laying in a bed, wishing to be me and not my sickness. The yearning of my heart to feel human skin touch my own and not the artificial touch offered by hospital gloves. Reflecting on my life, I know God blessed me through those moments. From those moments God allows me to offer the gentle touch of Jesus, and by that touch. Through my Christ like touch His joy is now shared to all those I meet.
Who is there who would not cry in your arms without instantly receiving your immaculate kisses of love and comfort? If he be a sinner, your caresses will soften him. If one of your devoted ones, your presence would enkindle the living flame of divine love. If he be poor, you with your powerful hand will aid him and show him his true homeland. If rich, you will sustain him with your breath against the dangers of his very agitated life. ~St. Teresa of Jesus of the Andes (from her Diary)