Care for dying persons remains a part of Christian charity, as it has been from the time of Jesus. Here is one reading we heard at the core of this past weekend’s gospel passage.
At it’s root, Jesus is speaking of the end times. That event has faded from first century importance, and the topic seems to connect more usually with the end of an individual’s life. As such, perhaps this passage works best for a person who is facing death. Let’s read:
Jesus said to his disciples,
“Gird your loins and light your lamps
and be like servants
who await their master’s return from a wedding,
ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks.
Blessed are those servants
whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival.
Amen, I say to you,
he will gird himself,
have them recline at table,
and proceed to wait on them.
And should he come in the second or third watch
and find them prepared in this way,
blessed are those servants.
Be sure of this:
if the master of the house had known the hour
when the thief was coming,
he would not have let his house be broken into.
You also must be prepared,
for at an hour you do not expect,
the Son of Man will come.”
The parable suggests preparation. In the context of the end of life, that can be a very profound exercise. It will vary from person to person. Sometimes it means reconciliation with estranged loved ones. It might be a form of settling accounts with God: getting past regrets, confessing serious sin, or maybe settling into a final routine of prayer. What does Jesus promise? He gives a beatitude (“blessed are”) for those who listen and act accordingly. A person in hospice knows the time is near, the Lord is coming soon.
Peter interjects a question that might be on our lips:
Then Peter said,
“Lord, is this parable meant for us or for everyone?”
And the Lord replied,
“Who, then, is the faithful and prudent steward
whom the master will put in charge of his servants
to distribute the food allowance at the proper time?
Blessed is that servant
whom his master on arrival finds doing so.
Truly, I say to you,
he will put him in charge of all his property.
Jesus’ second beatitude is like the first: he blesses the person who embodies two virtues: faithfulness and prudence. That latter can be very difficult at times. I suppose the integration of it comes and serves well at the end of life.
For an in-depth treatment of the Pastoral Care rites, check this page that outlines our examination from a decade ago.