I was a Chaplin for a hospital in Atlanta with three other chaplains and our supervisor. One day I was on call, and near the end of my shift I get a call that a couple just came in and the woman had a mass on her brain, and they wanted to see a chaplain. I went to visit with them and pray with them for a few minutes and left after my work was done. However, something stuck with me so once my shift was over, I went to pray for them back at the parish I was staying at.
The next day I went back to visit them to see how they were doing. The husband responded to me not so good. We prayed together, but than I allowed him to go and embrace his wife who had come in with the brain mass. This embrace helped in their healing process. They came into the hospital seeking medical solutions to the problems that had arose. However, I provided for them something the hospital couldn’t, a deeper spiritual and emotional healing they needed in the difficult situation. I remember going to visit them one more time the next day and they were doing much better and family had come to visit.
The hospital provided them the physical healing that they needed. I don’t know what happened to that couple once they left I never saw them again. However, God provided for them, though my ministry, a spiritual medicine that they needed as well. All of us need the spiritual medicine of Christ and his Church.
We hear in our Gospel about the prodigal son who goes out and squanders away all his inheritance on loose living. We see in the Prodigal son a man in need of God’s mercy someone who needs that spiritual medicine that only comes from God. His father responds in an unexpected way at-least in terms of human reactions. I would suggest that the Father responds as God responds to us, with mercy, love, and rejoicing over our repentance. The Father loved him and had mercy on him. God our father is the same way with us.
We can all relate to the prodigal son in our lives. We may not fall into as serious sin as he did but we all struggle with sin. We all need God’s mercy and forgiveness just like he did in the parable. If we look further into the story we can see that the older son the son who didn’t leave was also in need of his Father’s mercy and forgiveness. It isn’t that the older son sinned in any serious way or squandered his inheritance however the older son was grateful to his father, and too wanted to be disowned by the family because of his anger towards his younger brother. But the Father shows him mercy as well.
Jesus used these parables, including the one about the lost sheep and the lost coin to explain to the Pharisees and Scribes why he was interacting with sinners and tax collectors. You may remember from other parts of the scripture when Jesus says “I came not for the righteous but for sinners.” He wanted to remind the Pharisees of this fact when he explained these three parables. He came to bring back the lost, the sinner, those who had turned away from God. Another way we can think about it is that Jesus came to establish a hospital, not a normal hospital that takes care of physical aliments but rather a hospital for sinners and the broken. The Church continues that mission with the help of the Holy Spirit. The Church continues to seek out the lost and the broken, the sinner to bring him back into the fold of the flock.
I hope that we can all look at the Church in this way. The Church is the place we gather together to praise our God, the Church is where we fulfill our obligations and worship God. However the Church to is a hospital of mercy. We are in need to enter this hospital on a regular basis even if we feel we don’t have an immediate need to fulfill. Unlike doctors in our normal lives who we hope to only see once a year if we are healthy, to be health spiritually we need to be closely connected to God and his Church. So I encourage you to first of all come to mass on a regular basis. Secondly if you haven’t receive God’s mercy through the sacrament of reconciliation I encourage you to partake in it. We have confession before every mass except on Sunday. You can also call the office to set it up. I have no idea what happened to that couple I met, she may have received the treatment she needed to live a long healthy life, or she may have passed into eternal life. No matter what happened she too needed God’s love and mercy and a spiritual medicine. The Church provides that for her and for us as well. “