Care of the sick must rank above and before all else, so that they may truly be served as Christ, for he said: “I was sick and you visited me,” and “What you did for these least brothers you did for me” (The Rule of St. Benedict Chapter 36 The Sick Brothers, vv.1-3).
I am writing this blog reflection after learning that a dear friend of mine is going through what I did a year ago. His mother is dying. As I read his post on Facebook, I was reminded of what I was feeling that moment when I realized that my mother was going to die. The grief and sadness that griped my heart and soul was inescapable. My mother who visited in on me when I was sick as a child, who was always at my bedside, took me to the doctors, got me medicine until I got better; she was now the one who was sick and dying. There was nothing I could do. I had to turn to hospice services to give her the end of life care she needed; and be sure I was doing some good self-care. I thank God everyday that I had the help of hospice. They were my visiting angels in the course of a terrible time in my life.
All through this past year as I have worked through my grief I have been doing Lectio Divina reading Fr. Albert Holtz’s book Walking in Valleys of Darkness: A Benedictine Journey Through Troubled Times.
This morning the Greek word Holtz called my attention to is episkeptamai. The word means “to visit” “to care for” in a way that is life-giving and healing. The word was important to the life of those early Christians. When they used episkeptamai for “to visit” “to care for” it meant that that God’s visit to us in our moments of grief, sorrow, sickness and death is not some mere stopping by for coffee and see you next time. When God visits us in our moments when we are isolated and hurting; God’s visit is always to “work some healing wonder in our lives” (Holtz). Even if that healing wonder does not bring back our loved ones, or give us what we most desperately want; God is there with us sharing that pain and loss with us. Sometimes God visits and cares for us in those moments to bring healing to those places in our lives that we did not even know needed the balm of God’s compassion..
Saint Benedict focuses his Monks on the responsibility for visiting and caring for the sick. He is recognizing that the Christ who visits us in our moments of sickness, grief and sorrow; is the same Christ we visit in another individual who is ill, in distress and abandoned.
Visiting and caring for each other in our moments when we are so vulnerable is in and of itself a moment of deep contemplation with a wondrous opportunity to experience the Mystical Presence of God. It is a moment to see how God views us and those who are in need around us. God’s extravagant love is closer to us in those moments when we need God so desperately. Even when we or another person is questioning where God is at this moment. When God does not seem to make sense. God still sees all of us as God’s beloved with whom God is well-pleased.
How is God visiting and caring for you and/or calling you to visit and care for others?
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB