“Let us…persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:2)
Sometimes, it may seem as though I’m running a race, as I hustle from one floor to another, doing aide work in our assisted living-type facility. St. Anne’s Guest Home (where I work) is home to nearly seventy individuals, some of whom need a bit of assistance with their activities of daily living (e.g., dressing, bathing, etc.)
Although my main work here is in the office, recent staffing challenges led me to fill in more frequently as a personal care aide as well.
I feel truly blessed in the work. In serving each elderly or disabled person, I am able to serve the needs of Jesus who identifies Himself with the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned (Matt. 25:35ff). The awesomeness of the opportunity to serve has struck me, on more than one occasion, as I wash out support hose stockings or help a resident into her pajamas. It is beautifully striking to realize Who I am privileged to serve in these people.
I don’t waste any time in my work, not wanting to make others wait and having plenty to get done. (I’ve even acquired the nickname of ‘Speedy’ from one of our gentlemen.) However, a recent episode reminded me of the fact that each person is worth my time, worth stopping for, even when I’m busy.
I was again working upstairs, passing out snacks or helping with personal cares of our residents. I had limited time and couldn’t afford to stop and loiter. Briskly walking, I passed the room of a particular resident near the end of the long corridor; this particular individual is one to whom my heart went out in a special way. He had many challenges and really suffered a lot; I truly felt compassion for him. In my haste that evening, I passed quickly by his room at first, affording, however, a quick ‘hello’.
Show You care
Then, it occurred to me, as it has other times as well: “Nothing you have to do is that important that it can’t wait 30 seconds. Go back there and show him that he’s important; show him that you care!” I followed what may have been a nudge from Jesus. I had a brief dialogue with him, casually asking how he was doing, etc.
The next morning, at about 3:45 a.m., I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing at our convent which is just across the yard from St. Anne’s. Sisters, are responsible as a backup for the other staff; furthermore, one of the Sisters is the administrator of St. Anne’s, so nocturnal phone calls to our convent are not unheard of.
This Sister administrator got around to answering it before I did. She carried on a bit of a conversation with the caller. When she hung up, I learned that one of our residents had just died, the one whose room I had passed on my evening rounds just hours before.
We were all surprised, and I thought back to the previous evening. Although I hadn’t had much time to visit, at least I had made an effort.
Serve Jesus Christ in Each Person
This was a lesson to me never to neglect any opportunity to serve Jesus Christ in another person; we’re not guaranteed another chance. I don’t want to pass up precious opportunities to serve Jesus in those in need.
In fact, serving our needy residents is something that helps me keep my eyes on Jesus, as the writer to the Hebrews exhorts us in the opening scripture quote. However, sometimes, I find that I can lose some of this focus. Personal difficulties of whatever form can weigh a person down. We can get stuck looking at ourselves and our difficulties.
During one such difficult time, it struck me: “I need to keep my eyes on Jesus.” Instead of dwelling on myself and my struggles, I need to look to Jesus and “keep my eyes on [Him].”
There is a Christian rock song, which I first heard in my late teens, which really speaks to the point. It is a reflection on Peter’s experience walking on the water toward Jesus (Matt. 14:22ff). The refrain of the song is: “If I keep my eyes on Jesus, I can walk on water…”
There are various things that I find extremely helpful in “keeping my eyes” lovingly on Christ. One is very simple. In our Catholic care facility, we have many crucifixes and sacred images on the walls. If I am going about my work, and maybe getting a little grumpy or too caught up in myself, an accidental glance at a crucifix on a wall I pass by is very powerful in getting me back on track, in refocusing “my eyes on Jesus.”
Another refocusing tool is prayer. I would say it is a crucial one. Recently, I have gone through some challenging times, but they have really helped me grow. I find that these times have brought me to cling much more closely to Jesus. Now, rather than seeing my daily time of prayer and meditation as an obligation, I look forward to it and rely upon it.
I am grateful to start my day with my eyes intently on Jesus, through reading and meditation on scripture, especially the gospels. I meet Him there, reading and reflecting on the brief passage, often the Gospel of the day. I often put myself in the scene and respond to Jesus there. My experience, obviously, is not the same as Peter and the other Apostles, but is precious, nonetheless.
This quiet half hour is a privileged time to just sit with our Lord, present in the Blessed Sacrament, to spend time with Him, and try to listen to Him. My special time with Jesus can help me maintain my focus on Him throughout the day, for I never know what lies ahead.
The passage from Hebrews, referred to earlier, concludes by calling Christ “the leader and perfecter of faith.” In spending time with Our Lord, Jesus Christ each day, and getting to know Him better, hopefully, I can also follow his lead and live more and more like Him.
I never know in what ways I will meet Him later, as I go about my work.