Weekly Homily

“Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

Reaching Out 

November 23, 2014
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Matthew 25:31-46
Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC

Three years ago in early fall, our local newspaper reported on a new venture undertaken at the institution I presently serve as chaplain. It’s a story of young people learning to provide care for others, aided by the assistance of contemporary technology. It’s a story of young women and men learning to do unto others as they would wish done unto them. Indeed, it’s a story of learning to care for the fragile earthly body of Christ Jesus. Entitled “Students Practice on Model Patients,” I share excerpts of that article with you:

“The newest patients at Albany Medical College sweat, sob and bleed, and medical students can poke and probe them ceaselessly. They are not real but they may complain because these half-million dollar mannequins say things like ‘That hurts!’ or ‘I think I'm going to be sick.’

“The college [recently] unveiled its $8.8 million Patient Safety and Clinical Competency Center, a 12,000-square-foot simulation facility dedicated to training doctors, nurses and medical professionals in lifelike situations.

“Medical students will be able to practice hands-on skills in mock emergencies. ‘This is a way for us to be confident that our students are graduating with the requisite skills and cognitive decision-making and psychomotor habits that will make them superb physicians,’ said Dr. Vincent P. Verdile, executive vice president of health affairs at Albany Medical Center and dean of Albany Medical College.

“Extensive aviation research shows that simulation reduces pilot error and there is growing evidence the same is true in medical training. The facility has four [simulated adults] and one [simulated infant]. The computerized mannequins have dilating eyes, heartbeats, blood pressure and blood, sweat and tears. The college paid between $200,000 and $500,000 for each one.

“In the center, students can practice spinal taps, robotic surgery, pelvic exams, intubations, catheterizations, tracheotomy and endoscopy. The mannequins can also simulate child birth, cardiac arrest and many other scenarios.

“The center will also be a training resource for local emergency responders and skills-training for practicing doctors. The new program will be woven into the college's long-standing ‘standardized patient’ program that is staffed by 70 actors who portray patients in mock encounters with medical students.

“‘The ability to mimic real-life physiology is really exciting,’ [Dr.] Verdile said. ‘The students get to understand the physiology and anatomy, and now the pharmacology, before they ever get to the bedside.’” (Albany, NY, ‘Times-Union,’ October 11, 2011)

Yes, this is a story of medical students learning to provide care for others aided by the assistance of contemporary technology, a story of learning to care for the fragile earthly body of Christ Jesus.

But aren’t we all called to care for the earthly body of Christ, fragile in so many ways? Aren’t we all called to open our hearts and hands to serve the needs of others? Certainly we are! It’s the very theme of the gospel parable we hear today as Jesus proclaims, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

Daily do I rub shoulders with young doctors, observing them up close as they care for the bodies, spirits and even souls of their patients—the latter evidenced by the many referrals made to our staff of chaplains for spiritual support for patients and their families. Indeed, I continue to marvel at the sensitivity of our medical staff to the broader needs of those given to their care.

Perhaps even more significant, though, is what happens at the place I call home: St. Joseph Center, a healthcare facility for members of our Holy Cross religious community. Serving as chaplain to this group of 35 Brothers, most of whom I’ve known the better part of my life, daily do I have the opportunity to witness the Christian mandate that Jesus delivers in today’s gospel passage.

On one recent day I saw near-blind Brother Luke pushing the wheelchair of 97 year-old Brother Angelo toward the chapel for Mass, Angelo quietly calling out as they prepare to round a corner, “A little more to the left or we’re going to crash into a wall.” That same day I saw Brother Edgar, himself in a leg cast, preparing two lunch plates at the noontime buffet, one for himself, the other for Brother Gerald, whose bum knee has severely limited his mobility. At Mass, after distributing Communion to those able to come forward, I hand the bowl of hosts to smiling Brother Hugh who this day and every other day, and in spite of his own health challenges, graciously serves the pew-bound members who, with canes and walkers, just haven’t the energy or balance to join the Communion line.

As one of the younger members of the St. Joseph Center community, I’m still learning what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, still learning what it means to live a life committed to love of God and neighbor. As I daily struggle to be more other-focused than self-absorbed, I look around at the generous example provided by my elder Brothers in Holy Cross. As I see the old and sick caring gently for the older and sicker, it’s Christ’s gospel mandate enfleshed: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of the least of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

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