Hospital ministry can be such a blessing, but it can also cause a person to lose their focus on Christ if we allow it to. On one particular hectic Saturday a couple of years ago, I found myself seriously doubting the usefulness of such a ministry. The morning began with my running behind schedule, as I was really not feeling much up to doing it in the first place. To top it off, I was late getting to the hospital due to accidentally setting the alarm off at church when I unlocked the door. It was my turn as Team Leader to pick up the Eucharist from the church for our team members in the hospital ministry that week. In my hurried frustration, I could not remember the code.
After several tries, I began to worry about how I would ever get to the hospital on time. For the life of me I could not get the alarm to accept my code and the incessant ringing of the burglar alarm was really starting to make me break out in a sweat.
Struggling to find my code in my purse, I finally located it and discovered I had transposed the numbers. “Drat!” I wondered to myself. “Will I ever learn this new fangled contraption?” Arriving out of breath and full of apologies to the others members of the ministry team, we quickly set to work. After checking the patient logs the receptionist handed us, we split up the hosts and began our appointed rounds.
While riding the elevator to the first floor of patients, I thought to myself: “I can serve Jesus today and take Him to those who need Him so very much.” I was trying very hard to talk myself into being cheerful and enthusiastic. That thought started working as I came to the first floor, but by the 11th floor my spirit was beginning to lag once again. Feeling very dejected, I began to wonder why we even bothered giving up our time on Saturdays to do Hospital Ministry. That Saturday was much like the last few we had experienced. We volunteer our time to bring the Eucharist to the hospitalized and most of the patients are totally disinterested. The usual response was: “No, thanks! I don’t care to receive.” Some of the patients would even tell you out right they were not happy to be bothered with a visit. That Saturday morning it began to look as if I would have to return most of the hosts to the church again.
As I checked in at the nursing station on the eleventh floor, I was beginning to get the definite feeling that I needed to step back from hospital ministry for a time. It had gotten to be very disheartening to have so many people not interested in receiving. They all seemed to be too busy wanting to see their doctor or involved in phone conversation that I began to feel like the unwanted guest at a wedding reception.
As the nurse handed me back the approved patients list, I found there are only three patients on this last floor to visit, and only two of them could receive the Eucharist. The third patient was marked for a prayer visit only. I had to brace myself mentally for more refusals as I walked toward the first room to meet with a patient named Martha. I was definitely not happy and not in a cheerful mood. I worked mightily to paste a smile on my face and appear cheerful even though I felt like just calling it a day and going home.
As I tapped on the door gently, I prepared to announce myself. But before I could utter a word, this very weak but beautiful voice said; “OH! Come in please! You have brought me my Jesus! I could see His light coming down the hall towards my room.” As I fully entered, I saw a lady who was eagerly anticipating her visit from the Divine Physician. This woman, I would learn later, had come to the hospital for the last time. Martha was in the final stages of her cancer battle, but Martha’s soul was at peace as she eagerly awaited Her Lord!
Standing in her presence, I felt humbled and quite sure that I was witnessing a little miracle. Martha needed no one to tell her Jesus was present. Her eye’s gazed at the Host with what I can only describe as sheer rapture. It was as if the veil of the Tabernacle opened and Christ stepped forth to hold His dying child in His arms himself. I myself, to say the least, was chagrined at my earlier grumpy thoughts of how useless our ministry was. I left Martha to make the next patient visit with a very contrite spirit and I was full of joy to have been able to bring Christ to one sweet soul that day.
In the moments before I approached the next room, I paused with tears coursing down my cheeks and contritely whispered to Jesus; “I am sorry for being so grumpy about giving my time to carry you to the sick. Martha has shown me Lord how much You care. I know that it is worth every minute of my time. I myself am a very poor instrument to bring you to the sick and suffering. Please forgive me Jesus!”
Checking with the next patient’s nurse, I found that this patient had a whole room full of visitors. Jim and his family members were very warm and welcoming, and they all wanted to receive Jesus! After leaving Jim and his family still deep in their prayers of thanksgiving for Christ in the Eucharist, I stopped outside the room of my last patient. Checking with his nurse I was a bit startled when she replied, “Daniel is probably not worth bothering with but go on in if you want to.” By this time I knew for certain that Christ wanted me to make the effort, even if it would be a waste of time. He had showed me how much He was appreciated by Martha and Jim’s family and I was determined not to disappoint Him again with my poor attitude.
I gently tapped on the door and announced myself to the motionless figure lying in the darkened hospital room. At the sound of my voice, Daniel turned over as best he could. In that instant, I found myself looking into the most beautiful blue eyes I believe I have ever seen. Eyes, which smiled with the brightness of all heaven, as if to say; “Welcome! How happy I am that you have come to visit me!” Eye’s, which mesmerized me with their beauty even though Daniel, poor creature, was covered with the most awful pustules, which had disfigured his face. I could hardly recognize his nose and his mouth was full of the most haphazard gapping teeth I believe I have ever seen. Daniel, it turned out was profoundly retarded as well as very physically misshapen. But in my heart of hearts, I knew that Daniel not only recognized Jesus... to me he became Jesus in this most distressing disguise.
As I prayed at Daniel’s bedside, I swear I could hear the angels singing; “Glory to God in the Highest and to all his creatures on earth!” Daniel, even though he was mute and physically and mentally challenged, renewed my spirit more than I can say. I came to bring Jesus to the sick and the suffering, but I found Jesus that day through the love for Christ in the Eucharist of a dying woman named Martha. Jesus was there in midst of Jim’s family, and in the end, I found Jesus was Truly Present in the blue eyes of a man named Daniel.