Quite often a priest is called to the bedside of the dying. Either a call from the hospital chaplain, a family member, or the friend of a friend alerts that death is near. As quickly as he can, he makes his way to the bedside. Standing vigil are relatives and friends who hardly know what to do or say when life is ebbing away. The ancient prayers are said. Scripture is proclaimed. The forehead and palms are anointed with the balm of healing and the blessing reserved for those who have come to the end of life’s journey is imparted as their soul is commended to Almighty God.
We are reminded of Jesus’ encounter with the paralytic. The friends of this unfortunate fellow heard that the Lord was near and they hoped their friend could encounter the power of God’s healing through Jesus. Going to the house where Jesus was teaching they found a great crowd. Unable to make their way inside they decided to take their friend up on the roof, removing some of the roofing tiles so they could lower the paralytic into the midst of Jesus, and lower him down. Jesus looked at the crippled man, seeing the faith of the friends who had brought him there in such a dramatic and ingenious fashion; the Lord said to the cripple, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” Luke 5:20 Afterward Jesus spoke to the man, “I say to you, rise, take up your bed and go home.” Luke 5:24 The Evangelist records, “Immediately he rose up before them, and took up that on which he lay, and went home glorifying God.” Luke 5:25
While the paralytic was not dying, the friends of friends who call when their loved one is near to death have the same concern as did the men who lowered the paralyzed man into the midst of Jesus. Their faith compels them to seek assistance at such a difficult moment because of their love and respect for the dying, even when those who are near to the end cannot express that desire themselves.
Death is something that none of us can ignore. We will all experience it one day. Respect for the dying and their inherent dignity — despite age, illness or capacity — is the calling of all Jesus’ disciples. Our presence with them is a comfort, and our prayers consoling. Quite often it is our faith,
and our faith alone, which enables an individual of no faith or lapsed faith to experience the peace of life’s final moments and the hope of eternity which is unfolding.
During this month of November, as the trees lose their leaves and summer’s heat is replaced by the frost of fall, it seems as if all the earth is coming to its end, in effect dying, awaiting winter’s blanket of ice, snow and darkness. At this season we remember family, friends and neighbors who have gone before us. We pray for them and celebrate the wonder and joy of living, as we acknowledge the circle and dignity of all human life from its beginning to its very end.
St. Francis de Sales Parish Catholic Church
40 Granville St.
Newark, Ohio 43055