Sunday, 11 July 2010

The Other Lesson from The Good Samaritan

"...the Samaritan took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, 'Take care of him, and when I come back I will repay you whatever more you spend.' "

Just this week I got an call from Hospice of Windsor asking me if I could go visit a man in hospital who was going to die very soon, in fact it was an urgent plea to get to him right away as waiting even a day might be too late. The nurses had called Hospice because this man had seen no visitors, no family members, nobody had come to visit him at all, ever, and they didn’t want him to die alone. Truly this man had been kicked to the curb by his illness and by his life circumstances and left to die alone, like the victim in the story of the Good Samaritan. (Luke 10:25-37)

I went and spent some time with the patient. I held his hand, talked and prayed with him, I did my best to make sure he was comfortable, and when he was asleep, and I went home to my family.

Had that man died later in that evening with no one else in the room at the time of his passing, he would not have died alone. Someone who cared for him, a Hospice volunteer in this case, was with him as he closed this chapter of his life.

Many times I see families and friends keeping a round-the-clock vigil and it can be gruelling. Sometimes, though, in spite of their continuing vigilance and care, the family steps out for a moment or goes home to look after their own family, and while they’re away the loved one dies. I’ve seen people quite burdened with guilt about that. I understand that guilt. Just today after I had finished preaching about it and had a chance to practice some Good Samaratinisms, I learned the man I'm writing about had died this morning, probably while I was at church.

I remind family and friends and clergy and Hospice volunteers who feel guilty of the other lesson from the parable of the Good Samaritan.

He came to the assistance of someone in need, he cared for him, he found him continuing care with the innkeeper, and then, and this is important, he went on his way. The Samaritan did not sit in vigil and frankly, we don’t know if the victim recovered or eventually succumbed to his injuries. We do know that the Good Samaritan cared for and arranged care for him, and then went about his business with the intent to return and follow up on the care.

Christ finishes the parable and tells the listener and us to "go and do likewise", not just in caring for our brothers and sisters, but also in knowing when to step back and care for ourselves.

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