I’ve always had a deep desire for hospital ministry. Every time I’ve had the privilege of being in the presence of the sick, I encounter Christ in a very special way. One day I went to the hospital with one of the parish priests, Fr. James. After we took the elevator ride to the top of the hospital, we entered into a room where there sat a middle-aged woman and her sick mother, whose prognosis was “fair”. The woman in the bed was clearly in pain and it evoked deep sentiments within me. I immediately had a desire to relieve the suffering any way I could. I’ll try to describe with the best of my ability what I experienced next, but it’s almost impossible to do justice to the moment.
Immediately I began conversing with the sick woman. It was my words and personality, but it was as if I was being “moved” in a way that is impossible to mistake. I started discussing the divine mercy message, the need to trust in Christ’s merciful love, and the value of redemptive suffering. To be honest, I don’t even remember exactly what I said. I experienced what felt like an “outpouring” of love toward this woman and a deep empathy that manifested itself in what felt like a “merciful gaze”. It was an experience that I perceived as not having its fundamental source in me, rather it was a “pouring” through me of sorts.
Looking across the room, I realized the daughter had been brought to tears. This was a message she needed just as much as her mother. In fact, we are all broken and in need of Gods mercy and this was apparent with the daughters tears. Fr. James looked my way and with his mouth agape just said, “oh, wow”, or something to that effect. At the end of our visit I reassured the woman that I would bring her a divine mercy image to put in her room, allowing her to look toward Christ’s merciful gaze. To this she said, “I would really like that.” As we left the room, it felt like a surge of electricity had gone through me, and a tremendous feeling of joy pervaded within my soul. The encounter was a profound consolation.
Upon arriving back to the parish, I had this undeniable intuition that I needed to pray a divine mercy chaplet for the sick woman and her daughter. I don’t know why, but the thought came to my mind, “this sick women is going to die, and soon.” Although this thought was contrary to the prognosis, I prayed for her and went home for the weekend.
When I returned to the parish the pastor informed me that this sick woman had passed away, only hours after I left the hospital. Immediately it hit me like a sludge hammer, and I perceived what it all meant: I was one of the last people to ever talk to her, and not only that but I was allowed to enter into this woman’s dying hours and be the messenger of Christ’s merciful love. This affirmed everything I experienced in the hospital that day. One thing stuck with me though, some unfinished business needed to be attended to.
I felt badly that I wasn’t able to give her the divine mercy image I had promised. However, the opportunity to fulfill my promise came when I served her funeral. Before we left for the burial, I thought to grab a small divine mercy card. After the committal I laid the divine mercy image upon her casket and they lowered it into the ground. The daughter was delighted that this promise was able to be fulfilled and it provided a small glimmer of consolation on an otherwise sad day. I still think about this woman and my encounter with not only her that day, but with Christ. Jesus was in that hospital room.
I was left with this: When Christ uses us for His purposes, it’s not only a healing moment for others, but us as well. In bringing Christ to others, we ourselves encounter Him in the most intimate of ways.
This is the joy meant for every human being and there is nothing, I repeat, nothing in this world that can fulfill us as deeply. In this encounter I felt like a glass of water that was overflowing and there was a continuous spring gushing upward. Paradoxly, it is only in pouring outward, that we become filled inward. We receive in the amount that we give.
At the end of it all, this is what transforms us, its Christ gaze of mercy that pierces into the deepest recesses of our soul, purifying us of all the wounds of sin. Like the sinful woman groveling in the dirt from the Gospel, we look up and see the merciful gaze of Christ waiting to receive us.