Sherry Antonetti is a freelance writer, blogger and published author of The Book of Helen. She lives just outside of Washington, DC with her husband and their ten children.
Recently, our family received some hard news. My husband was diagnosed with a type of cancer. Once people knew, my phone began pinging with prayers and questions, “How can we help?” to which my honest answer was, “I don’t know yet,” but the response itself, felt like a warm blanket from the broader community. Modern sensibilities discount the idea of thoughts and prayers, but thoughts and prayers sincerely given mean something, because they’re the beginnings of action — even if the actors themselves don’t know it yet.
I thought of all the times people have told me about their trials, and it doesn’t feel like much to just listen, but it’s a gift. Jesus knew all the hearts he looked out upon when he multiplied the loaves and the fishes, because He wanted to reach out and nourish each soul he encountered. He wanted all of them to know his love, to have that God-shaped hole in their souls, experience the fullness it so longed for, but could not name. Every time I’ve been in the hospital, whether for a surgery or a child birth, the presence of another person brought comfort, even if it was only the nurse coming to check vital signs just after I’d fallen asleep.
The world is our hospital, and we are both the patients and the ministers of the cure, though not the cure itself. We are to bring Christ to others, to wrap others in blankets of prayer, to give them something to drink, so they do not thirst for friendship. We are to sit with them so they are not alone, or to walk with them and help carry the cross of their trials. All of it is both now and to come in all of our lives, we will either be the one needing the company or should be the one providing it, or possibly both. We’re on the mat being brought to Jesus, and to be the ones breaking open the roof to lower the one needing healing into the room with him.
Part of why we have the scandals we have is that many people within the Church felt alone, isolated and afraid. That is the devil’s chief weapon — to tell us we have no friends, love is insufficient, and our efforts mean nothing or will mean nothing. Everything the devil whispers in our ears is a lie. Everything that keeps us from speaking truth, from caring for others, from following Christ, is from him.
What this scandal continues to reveal is how starving the world is for Christ’s love, for the healing of Love’s presence and how underfed and wounded we’ve kept it. “Love is a fruit always in season and within reach of every hand,” Saint Teresa of Calcutta said. We need to harvest it and go out to feed the five thousand, and if we do this in our lives, we should have 12 baskets filled with leftovers when we’re finished.