Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross is renowned for her work on the Five Stages of Grief and her famous book on death and dying. She interviewed dying patients in the hospital, trying to find out how they felt and what they thought as they faced death. As she went from room to room in the hospital, she began to notice a remarkable pattern. Sometimes she would go into a dying person’s room and the person would be calm, at peace, and tranquil. She also began to notice that often this was after the patient’s room had been cleaned by a certain hospital orderly.
One day, Dr. Kubler-Ross happened to run into this orderly in the hospital corridor. The doctor said to her, “What are you doing with my patients?”
The orderly thought she was being reprimanded by Dr. Kubler-Ross. She said, “I’m not doing anything with your patients.”
“No, no,” responded the doctor. “It’s a good thing. After you go into their rooms, they seem at peace. What are you doing with my patients?”
“I just talk to them,” the orderly said. “You know, I’ve had two babies of my own die on my lap. But God never abandoned me. I tell them that. I tell them that they aren’t alone, that God is with them, and that they don’t have to be afraid.” \
Imagine that you are a patient in that hospital. And you have reached a low point in your life. A gentle and caring hospital worker comes into your room and while she cleans your room, she listens to your concerns. And quietly this orderly shares with you that she was once in your situation and she reached out to God and God was there and God helped her through a bad situation. And you are helped by this genuine act of caring and sharing. In fact, you come out of that hospital experience a stronger person than you went in. It changes how you deal with life.
Today, the Prophet of Advent, Isaiah, speaks for God as he says, “Give comfort to my people” (Isaiah 40:1-11). In today’s Gospel, Jesus exhorts us to leave the 99 sheep and go after the one that is lost and in great need (Matthew 18:12-14).
Isaiah and Jesus are urging you and me to do this Advent day what the orderly in the hospital did – to yield ourselves to God and let God work though us.
Who can you give comfort to this Advent Tuesday?