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A friend of mine recently suffered a heart attack while playing basketball at our parish gymnasium.
I went by the hospital the next morning to get an update on Bob. As I entered the parking lot, I saw John, one of the men who performed CPR on our friend, coming out of the hospital.
As we stood there talking about the incident, our pastor, Father Paul Shikany, approached us and offered John a hug.
I learned from John that several other parishioners had already stopped by to find out how they could help. As I left the parking lot, I waved at two women, friends of Bob’s wife, pulling in to pay a visit.
A prayer service was planned for the following evening.
As I was driving into the office the next day, I began to reflect on the incredible blessing of a Christian community. Within a matter of hours of a crisis, our parish community, St. Matthew the Apostle Parish in Indianapolis, kicked into its very best mode—caring for the person that is down.
Our parish community grew even closer—and extended our love even more to Bob’s family—when we learned several days later that Bob had died.
My own family has experienced the immense blessing of being on the receiving end of this caring community on more than one occasion. It can seem that there is no burden so heavy that cannot be carried when so many others step in to help share the load. It is one of those special times when the love of God becomes very real.
All through the heartbreaking circumstances of Bob’s death, I have reflected upon and prayed for people who lose a loved one, develop cancer, go through a divorce, lose a job or become depressed and full of despair.
My friend, Bob, had a community who loved him and supported him, just as he gave love and support to so many people in his life.
Then there are those individuals who do not have a community to share the load.
I think these are the ones that Christ referred to as the lost and forsaken. It is for these especially that Christ asks us, his followers, to care for and love.
The lost and forsaken may not be easy to love. In fact, they may not even be easy to like. And it could be that the very reason they may not have a support community is because they are difficult to be around.
But we, as followers of Jesus, are held to a very high standard.
We are called to love the unlovable, to care for the uncaring and to seek out the lost. We are called to be the hands of Jesus in the world. This is the fullness of the meaning of charity.
We are called to offer what our Holy Father calls “loving, personal concern.”
Loving, personal concern is not easily given at a distance. A friend of mine likes to say, “Prayer is nice, but sometimes I need Jesus to have skin.”
We need to offer the human touch—“the skin”—that makes a difference in the lives of others.
(David Siler is executive director of the Secretariat for Catholic Charities and Family Ministries. E-mail him at email@example.com.) †