Dear CMA Members and Friends,
The first principal, and indeed the center of the Social Doctrine of the Church, is human dignity.
This principal can be traced all the way back to the dawn of creation. “Then the Lord God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth.’ So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. He blessed them, and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it’” (Genesis 1:26-28).
The theme we see from Genesis to Revelation is that human life is sacred, because each of us are created in the image and likeness of God, destined to live forever. If this were not so, the Eternal Word of God the Father, the Son of God, would not have taken flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1-14).
Individually, we are so important to God that before He formed us in the womb, He knew and loved us (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalms 139:13-16). St. John Paul II wrote, “Human persons are willed by God; they are imprinted with God’s image. Their dignity does not come from the work they do, but from the persons they are” (Centesimus Annus, 11).
One of the highlights of my time in the seminary was meeting St. Teresa of Calcutta and hearing her speak. One could sense the presence of God in this holy woman. Her favorite Gospel passage was from the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. It is the description of the general judgement at the end of time.
Jesus said that He will say to those of us on His right side, “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me … truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:34-40).
A priest I know told me that he said to Mother Teresa once, “You know Mother, that everything we do for Jesus, we do for Him.” She immediately patted him on the knee and said, ‘No, no, it is ‘to me!’” How true.
We do not have to travel to faraway places to encounter Jesus in others, because He is present in our family members, neighbors, coworkers, and patients. Because of the pandemic, additional challenges have arisen concerning our neighbors, especially the elderly and sick.
Many people, mostly seniors in nursing homes, have been isolated in their rooms because of the regulations crafted during this pandemic. I know an elderly nursing home resident who during a window visit did something she was forbidden to do, something that was against the rules.
She cracked opened her window and pressed one of her fingers on the screen so the visitor could touch her fingertip through the screen. She said how much she longed for a hug. She, who is not a touchy-feely kind of person, was starving for physical contact. She has not had any physical contact for almost a year. The visitor touched the finger of Jesus through the screen because Jesus said, “whatever you do to the least, you do to me.”
This same nursing home resident related that she was looking forward to her appointment with her podiatrist, not because she was going to get her toenails clipped, but because she could talk to the doctor while he cut her nails.
One of the most common complaints patients have with their doctors is that they do not spend much time with them. I know this is a challenge, especially when the physician is behind schedule. I remember those days quite well. Even though time is a precious commodity when seeing patients, offering to say a prayer, a smile and some kind words go a long way.
Imagine how kind Jesus was with the sick during and after His time with them. When you encounter a patient, tell yourself it is Jesus Christ you are encountering, for everything you do for the least, you do to Him.
Fr. Christopher Kubat, M.D.