A surgeon once told me about a strong, self-reliant man, who rarely expressed his emotions outwardly. One night the man had to rush his wife to the hospital for emergency surgery. The operation was successful but the woman’s condition deteriorated. Despite blood transfusions and intensive care, she continued to lose strength.
The doctor was puzzled, because by all medical standards, she should have been recovering. Finally, the doctor became convinced of the reason for her steady decline. She was not trying to get well.
The surgeon was an old family friend, so he went to her bedside and said: “I would think you would want to get well for the sake of your husband.”
She replied weakly, “My husband is strong, he doesn’t need anybody.” The doctor called the husband to his office and told him what his wife had said.
He went immediately to his wife’s hospital room, took her hand in his and said, “You’ve got to get well!” Without opening her eyes, she asked, “Why?”
He replied, “Because I need you!” At this point, the nurse who was monitoring the blood transfusion said she noticed an immediate change in the woman’s pulse rate.
Then she opened her eyes and said, “That’s the first time you ever said that to me!” Two weeks later she was home and recovering. The doctor said later that it wasn’t merely the blood transfusion, but her husband’s words that made the difference. He declared his need for her. That she was important to someone she loved made all the difference between life and death.
On this Feast of the Holy Family, you and I need to realize this – how much we truly need the ones we love. And most especially we need to tell them this and not on their death beds.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is a typical 12-year old. He’s already spreading his wings, remaining behind in Jerusalem, and not telling Mary and Joseph. When they finally find him in the temple, Mary asks him, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
Jesus replied, “Do you know know that I must be in my Father’s house?” No doubt Mary was thinking, “How about our house?”
The Gospel says that Jesus went with them to Nazareth and he was obedient to them for the next 20 years. After stating his case about his Father in heaven’s house, he showed how much he needed Mary and Joseph. So he went home and lived out his love for them for 20 years.
Christmas is the best time for us to “come home” to take off our “John Wayne masks” like the husband in the story did. To take off our “I’ve go so much work to do masks” and let the real person appear.
I’m sure there are some women here who have kept the family together emotionally and physically, but who have felt utterly taken for granted, like an unpaid servant. There are some men and women here who have worked so hard to raise their families, putting in long hours, sacrificing their own wants and pleasures so their kids could go to a good school, but are taken for granted. I’m sure there are loyal workers here, who are at work every day, taking no phony sick days, giving their time and energy over and above what is required, and are taken for granted.
This Christmas Season is such a good time to say the words that count. Whenever I hear caring words, then I know that I count. And I want to count! I need to count! I’m not an insect among several other million insects – here today and stepped on tomorrow.
I and everyone here was born for a reason – to love and to be loved. We must not just do it….We must also say it.
John and Mary Ceil are a couple I used to do retreats with. One day at work John had to sneeze. So he grabbed the handkerchief in his back pocket. But before he put it back, he unfolded it and saw how clean, how starched and how well-ironed it was. For over 30 years Mary Ceil had been cleaning his icky handkerchiefs, starching, and ironing them to perfection.
It dawned on him that he had never once ever thanked her. On the way home he bought a rose and a nice box of candy. John hugged her and thanked her for her special, unnoticed task that she had so lovingly done for all those years!