YEAR C: HOMILY FOR THE 6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: “Jesus said, ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your
consolation.’” (Luke 6: 20, 24)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
HOMILY: Luke 6:17, 20-26
“Stephen Ringold is a clown, but there’s nothing funny about what he faces when he begins his gig. He is working the hospital room of a sick child, trying to bring some much needed cheer. Ringold is part of a program run by the Big Apple Circus called Clown Care, the first-ever residential professional clowning program in a hospital. Medical clowning started more than 30 years ago at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, the brainchild of Big Apple co-founder Michael Christensen. The notion of laughter as the best medicine also has reached academia. In Israel, the University of Haifa has started offering a bachelor’s degree in medical clowning. For those who survive illness and are getting better, clowning is a kind of wonder drug to combat stress, reduce pain and relax muscles while boosting the natural immune system. The impact is direct, honest and above all, life-affirming. ” (Associated Press)
As any medical clown will attest, there’s so much more to healing than what even the most sophisticated medical procedures and advanced medications can provide. Surely, healing is physical, but also must it be spiritual and emotional. And too often is modern medicine apt to dismiss caring for the whole person, physical illness its narrow focus.
My many years in hospital ministry caring for the human spirit attests to the truth of what medical clowning is all about. Presently I serve in a hospital where “Clowns On-Call” are an integral therapeutic modality, their bedside visits to promote healing valued and welcomed by medical staff members.
The gospel passage we hear this day attests to our faith in God as first and best healer. Jesus tells his disciples that living in want while awaiting the world to come is of far more importance than living in physical comfort but empty-souled in the present passing world. “Jesus said, ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.’” (Luke 6:20, 24) Indeed, Jesus reminds us of a hard truth: Sometimes we must live with an enduring pain in body, mind or soul, our only assurance that heaven’s balm will provide blessed relief.
Besides clowns, our hospital boasts a cadre of therapy dogs, Maude and Angel the most prominent because of their size. I’d never seen such mammoth white-coated beasts until these two Great Pyrenees crossed my path in a hospital corridor. Had they raised themselves upon hind legs, they could easily have been mistaken for polar bears. They never did that, though; mostly they romped into the rooms of willing patients, huge tails a-wag, the panting of foot-long pink tongues cooling them under luxurious snow-white fur. How many times I saw Maude and Angel draw forth a smile from a face frozen by long-suffering.
One image, though, remains the most vivid in my mind. A terminally ill cancer patient in a wheelchair sat alone in the lounge on the oncology unit, her eyes gazing out the window at skies as stormy gray as her prognosis. As I watched from the nurse’s station, I saw Maude slowly approach the woman and soundlessly lay a huge canine head in the woman’s lap. Eyes pulled from the gray skies to the great white heap in her lap, the woman slowly stroked the dog’s head as its tail begins slowly to swish back and forth. Then I noticed the woman leaning down to talk to the beast as huge dog eyes looked up into hers. Suddenly, a burst of laughter from the woman in the wheelchair as Maude responded with a deep WOOF. I’ve been witness to a holy interaction!
That singular image remains: a huge canine head resting in the lap of a dying woman. And when they magically connect, something healing happens. In such a simple gesture of faith might we, too, find healing. Laying our heads in the lap of the Savior, may our eyes meet his in trust, in healing, even in joyous laughter.