I read and was amazed by the clarity with which I was able to understand today's reflection. I've been struggling with the reflections until today.
Thomas Merton says in Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton :
"The Call to 'do penance' is based not on the fact that penance will keep us trim, but on the fact that 'the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.' Our penance--metanoia--is our response to the proclamation of the Gospel; message, the Kerygma which announces our salvation if we will hear God and harden not our hearts. The function of penance and self-denial is then contrition, or the 'breaking up' of that hardness of heart which prevents us from understanding God's command to love and from obeying it effectively."
I have known that penance is a reparation for my sins...but somehow three Our Fathers and three Hail Marys and a good Act of Contrition just seemed too easy, simple, not quite as demanding as I considered it should be. And then I read, "The function of penance and self-denial is then contrition, or the 'breaking up' of that hardness of heart which prevents us from understanding God's command to love and from obeying it effectively." God's command to me is to love and obey the Gospel. That is not simple, easy and it is demanding.
So when I write about the Journal question today I do so in humility. For God is good and has shown me the true meaning of penance through Thomas Merton. I've been asked, as part of the Journey today, to share my last act of "charity" and why I did it.
Yesterday one of our patients, an elderly lady, arrived to see the doctor in a state of weakness caused by several days of epistaxis (bleeding from the nose). She had been to the emergency room twice for it, the most recent visit that morning. She was exhausted and very anxious. For the first time in 12 years I met her husband. She always came alone for she drove herself. Yesterday she could not. This lady who was always neatly dressed came in her nightgown and robe. Laying her head on the table she looked weary and exhausted. She was frightened and when the bleeding hadn't stopped she took out the packing. It was annoying and she didn't think it was working. When she went back to the ER they put in a drain and made an appointment for her to see a specialist, but not until today. After seeing the doctor, who consulted with another doctor who was the otolaryngologist (ENT) she will be seeing today, he was able to reassure her that with the treatment the other doctor would provide the bleeding would soon stop. Be assured that the patient was not hemorrhaging or having frank bleeding. She was frightened because she was so weak.
As she was getting into the wheelchair, she said, "Cathy, pray for me." A assured her I would. But what she said after that made me thank God for her and her presence in my life. She said, "Thank you. You always offer me such consolation when I come here."
Praying for others is an act of charity. I often forget that because it is an easy way to "care" for others. There is no monetary value. There is no physical labor required no special equipment. But is is the most powerful tool I own! And I did it out of love and concern for this dear lady. It became a time for me when my hardened heart became softer and more tender because of this encounter with Christ. (Matthew 25: 31-40)