One thing notable about Jesus was what we could call his ministry as a “ministry of presence.” See, when Jairus approached Jesus in today’s gospel (Mk 5:21-43) about his dying daughter, Jesus immediately became present to him and left with him to visit the child. On the way, someone haemorrhaging was healed simply by touching his cloak; so he stopped to be present to that woman. When he arrived at Jairus’ house, he was present to the apparently dead child. In all cases, he brought new life into dark situations.
Many of us have known people who were dying, probably within our circle of friends, and certainly within our own family or extended family. Sometimes it can feel awkward to visit under those circumstances of approaching death. Sometimes you wonder why you are there in the first place, because you know you can’t change the situation and you would probably rather be somewhere else. The same scenario would apply to visiting a friend or family who has lost a parent or child to some unexpected and accidental death. You know you cannot change that situation, but something drives you to visit the hurting family.
What we are experiencing when we reach out to dying or grieving friends is the very compassion of Jesus. It is that compassion that urges us to visit those who need comforting, and our compassion finds its release in being present to others in their time of need, just like Jesus. Consoling and comforting are spiritual works of mercy, and visiting the sick and dying is a corporal work of mercy. This “mystery of mercy” is supremely revealed in the life of Jesus, and as Pope St. John Paul II taught us, it is our constant mission to proclaim and introduce that mercy into our daily life.
Just being present to those in need is healing! Coming to the aid of our neighbour in their time of need, both spiritual and physical need, is a charitable action or “work of mercy”, and when we serve those who are hurting, we serve Christ who identifies with them.