Let’s be honest: who wants to sacrifice himself? Do we not want to hold onto life? We try to lengthen our life by going to the gym and investing in facial creams because we are afraid of losing ourselves. “We don’t even have time to breathe!” we often say. How can we find time for someone in need? Every once in a while a desire will arise in our heart: “Maybe I’ll go visit Louis, my sick and elderly neighbor…” But then thoughts come rushing in, screaming for their rights: “I’m tired! I have to cook. He has never come to visit me.” And then there are the excuses: “Maybe I would bother him. Maybe he wants to rest. I’ll go next week.” How difficult it is to give of oneself for another, how trying it is to visit a sick person! We are embarrassed because their illness reminds us of how fragile life is and we don’t want to remember.
But, if we dare to come close to someone in need, we discover that by giving of ourselves not only do we make the other person happy, but it is surprisingly enriching for us as well. “There is more joy in giving than in receiving” (Acts 20:35). We give of our time and in return we receive an understanding of what is really important in life. How many times when visiting a relative, a friend in the hospital, we leave thinking, “and I complain about the littlest things. This is what is really important!” And we discover that faith is what is important, that giving affection is important, small signs of love, a caress. We realize that it is a gift to be able to walk, talk, listen, eat. When we are with someone who is not capable of doing the things that we take for granted, we are grateful for what we have, we put it at the disposition of others and we no longer guard it selfishly. We understand that no matter what turns life may take, God is always with us “when we eat and when we sleep” (1 Cor. 10:31). God is always there, for everyone: the sick, the healthy, sinners and saints. The love of God is like the sun at midday, it never sets. God alone remains.
Maybe we would never be able to learn this lesson if we did not one day find ourselves foot of a hospital bed. The sick, the imprisoned — they are not enemies to avoid but treasures to discover and love. What is more important, a half hour of messaging back and forth or a half hour spent next to someone who is suffering, being there to bring hope and to say, “You are not alone. I’m here. God, Mary, the saints are with you. Let’s pray together”? If someone does not believe in God and does not feel like praying, we can always give the gift of our time, full of smiles and concrete gestures of help and assurance.
In this Jubilee Year, the Lord allows us to gain a plenary indulgence when we do a work of mercy: we visit someone in need and He, based on our faith, gives us the complete remission of the temporal punishment of our sins. What a grace! The love that we express in a visit makes us receptive to the love of God who wants to heal us from our sins and all of their consequences.
Life is passing and when someone we love leaves us, we do not need to bury him in our heart as in the earth; we do not need to let the sadness, regret, and desperation that we may feel become the dirt that covers our memory of our loved one. Certainty in the power of prayer makes us get out of the house, makes us ask a priest to celebrate Mass for our loved one – the highest act of charity that we can do for the deceased.
Pray for your deceased loved ones, do not leave them alone. Offer your suffering because when united with Christ it can become a soothing balm for he who seeks Heaven while preparing himself in Purgatory. Don’t waste even a headache!
With Jesus, our pain, when we offer it up, can be transformed into a good that we can give. We can always love, with all that we have and are.
“Lord, do you want my hands, in order to dedicate this day helping the poor and ill people?
LORD, today I give you my hands.
Lord, do you want my feet, in order to dedicate this day visiting those who need a friend?
LORD, today I give you my feet.
Lord, do you want my voice, in order to dedicate this day those who need words of love?
LORD, today I give you my voice.
Lord, do you want my heart, in order to love everybody only because he or she is human being.
LORD, today I give you my heart.”
(Mother Teresa from Calcutta)
Sr. Simona Panico