Stretch out and touch to give life and be life for others

June 26, 2020 – Friday of the 12th Week in Ordinary Time

9th Day of Novena to Our Mother of Perpetual Help

Click here for the readings (http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/062620.cfm)

Homily

How many of us who find it hard to observe the “no touching” advice from our medical experts? Because of the increase of the infection we are all advised to refrain from touching people or things. Touch only when it is necessary. The virus can also be passed through our touch, through our hands.

Because we have been so used to touch, in expressing our affection we touch, when we give comfort to a friend or a person we love we touch, even when we greet a friend or even a stranger we also touch. Even in our religious practices we also touch. When we pray and ask the intercession of the saints we touch their sacred statues or even kiss the holy images of our Lord. However, with this pandemic we are all advised not to do it.

Moreover, we are being confined at home. Our movements are limited and our desire to meet our friends and loved ones is sometimes prohibited or at least limited.  For the past months, we long for a human touch and long for human encounter. Thus, we could also understand the frustration that we feel because of this abrupt change in our behavior.

With all of these, we also realize the importance of human touch and of human encounter. It is important because there is a healing power in human touch. A human touch can comfort a bruised and fearful heart. It could take away the painful part of your body. It could give you confidence and assurance of support, love and trust.

On this 9th and last day of our Novena in honor to Our Mother of Perpetual Help, whose feast we shall celebrate tomorrow, I invite you now to listen to a personal story from a front liner herself, a nurse by profession who in the midst of our frustrations she herself went into something more frustrating too. She was confronted with fear yet at the same time of her call of duty to be at the service of those who are sick.

Thus, with her, we also bring ourselves into reflection today with our theme, Our Mother of Perpetual Help: Source of Help to Front liners Battling Covid-19, to those infected by the virus and to those who have died because of the virus.”

“I am SHIELA MAE PANTILLO, a DIALYSIS NURSE, for almost 7 years and still counting.  Now a days we are often called FRONTLINERS, and this FRONTLINER will share a piece of my journey during this pandemic.

I’ll start by asking:  Does anyone of you tried of wearing a PPE or a Protective Personal Equipment? Or have you seen one?  Or do you have any idea, what it feels like inside in it?  Because for me, definitely I DO! And I tell all of you that it’s not fun to try one.

A PPE is composed of an overall kind of suit, covering your whole body, that makes you sweat and feel uncomfortable inside in it.  This also comes with the N95 face mask that fits your respiratory entrance and exit, which is your NOSE and MOUTH. This could sometimes lead medical practitioner to feel DIFFICULTY OF BREATHING, when used for quite some time.  Last but not the least is the face shield and gloves and that make a basic PPE complete or should I say the OUTFIT OF THE DAY! 

Wearing such things make me feel that I am an ASTRONAUT, going outside the world fighting for aliens, “kidding aside.” However, behind my PPE and inside my heart are the worst feelings kept within.  FEAR, ANXIETY, WORRIES are there that can even lead a person to DEPRESSION.  I am always anxious because as I face the patients, I never know what will happen and that one day I will become infected and might end up losing my life too.

I will give one situation. This was during my shift at 3pm to 11pm.  This was a very toxic day.  We have 3 patients on deck admitted for dialysis. I was the team leader that time.  Every one of them has a specific treatment to be done.

With my team, we also have an ICU patient who needed a dialysis immediately. The patient needed blood transfusion and Dobutamine drips needed to be provided for Blood pressure to increase. However, there was some problem with another patient because dialysis machines kept on alarming due to catheter access problem. One could just imagine the pressure that it gave me as the team leader at that time.

Suddenly, in the middle of this mess, I received a phone call from my Head Nurse.  He asked me if I remember a particular patient during the past week. As my head nursed described to me the patient, I slowly remembered the patient and realized I was the one who ministered to the patient. Upon realizing this, my heart began to beat faster. I felt my Adrenaline Hormones bursting into my brain telling me that there might be something wrong with that patient. 

Then, my head nurse added that the patient will be transferred to a government hospital for further investigation. They had seen signs and symptoms of the virus COVID-19. At the moment everything started to move slowly, as if slow motion really. As I remembered, I can’t hear anything!!! I only heard the Cardiac Monitor having ASYSTOLE for quite sometime or called FLAT LINE that sounded like tooooooooooot!!!!!! 

Everything went blurred for the first time in my life. I began to absorb all the negative feelings which made my heart heavier. Again FEAR, ANXIETY, PARANOIA occupied my brain cells. It took me a couple of minute to go back to reality. I realized that I was unconsciously just saying YES to my Head Nurse though I didn’t understand what he was saying. I was overwhelmed of what would happen next.

The first person who came into my head was my Senior Citizen Mother. I asked, how will I supposed to tell her my situation? I was so scared to go home thinking that I should be the health care provider, but now I might be the carrier of the virus and might infect my own mother.

As I reached home and cleaned up myself.  I told my mother if she can go to my brother and live with him at Buhangin and to stay there for some days. I didn’t want to tell her the reason for asking her to do that. I didn’t want her to be worried for me. But, then she REFUSED. 

I tried to make things clearer for her, just to make her say yes and to transfer. But again she said NO.  So I told her the TRUTH, that she needed to get away from me because I’ll do a personal isolation to myself for several days just to make sure that I’m not a carrier of the virus. However, still my mother said NO. 

What do you expect from a mother who is also worried for her daughter? This made me more irritated and frustrated. Without noticing it, my voice become loud as if I was already shouting at my mom, hoping she could at least understand my frustration. But what struck me most was what she said and did.

My mom sat down and held the rosary, and told me, “My child we will pray and continue to pray.  Our Mother of Perpetual Help always listens and never leaves your side.  Have you forgotten that you were once far away from us for 4 years as an OFW but never she abandoned you. She keeps you safe until this day.”

At that moment, I felt a pail of cold water splashed over me, removing worries, anxiety and paranoia.  I told myself, why on earth should I be worried when in the first place she chooses me to serve her people?  GOD gives me this gift, being a skillful nurse to help the sick. This made me to burst into tears as I prayed,  “I offer everything to you LORD. Through you Our Mother of Perpetual Help, you helped me to lift all my burdens in life. With you, I feel that no matter what happens you will never abandon me.  Amen. Amen!”

This has been my prayer as I counted the days of my self-isolation. With my mom, we continued to pray the rosary and ask the intercession of Mary. Al last we got the result of the patient and it was NEGATIVE. Those fear and anxiety were over. It was the ANSWERED PRAYER we are all waiting for. As you people can see me right now and until the days ahead, I promise to always be here standing and serving as a NURSE, as a FRONTLINER and will continue to HELP and SAVE LIVES as what OUR MOTHER OF PERPETUAL HELP inspires me to be. Amen.”

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In the sharing of Sheila, we heard a struggle of a front liner that she has to go through. It was evident how fear and  anxiety could affect us so much. Sometimes, more than the virus, fear and anxiety paralyze us. Moreover, what we find comforting is the support and the love of a mother, who perhaps could not also really understand the real situation why they had to be separated. In times like this, it is indeed the touch of a person who loves us that brings calmness in us, that brings peace and assurance in our hearts.

This has been shown also in that simple action of praying the rosary and calling the intercession of Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help who never ceases to touch us to comfort us and to bring healing in our hearts.

Moreover, we can also wonder how those who were infected have been coping with this terrible disease. Again, more than the virus, the depression, the loneliness, the desperation and helplessness, their fear and anxiety would have definitely disturbed them too. I have friends who asked for prayers for those who were infected by the virus. I have also some friends who themselves got infected and so were isolated from their loved ones. Those whom they loved, their parents or their children were prevented to visit them. Thus, this created so much stress and longing to them. Yet, they cannot help it because of the danger of infecting those whom they love.

These frustrations and longing to be touched or to have a human encounter is innate in us. Thus, not being able to touch and be touched by the people whom we love would give us emptiness.

This is also what we have heard in today’s Gospel. A leper who was discriminated and socially isolated because of their illness came to Jesus. He asked for healing. What he was asking was totally against the culture and belief at that time for he came near to Jesus. The community despised them and they were always driven out of the city. They should and never be near with anyone.

With this situation, he must have longed for that encounter with another human being who understands and shows compassion. In his desire to have a human encounter, through Jesus, he too encountered God.

As this leper encountered Jesus, there was more in this encounter. Jesus actually healed others even by just saying words. Even at a distance, Jesus can heal a sick person. However, in this situation, Jesus knew the longing of this leper. As the leper longed for human encounter, for acceptance, he also longed to be touched, to be loved. Indeed, against the culture and belief at that time, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him.

The touch of Jesus made this leper clean and healed. Jesus’ touch assured him that God has not left him and that God loves him. That touch of God, reminds the leper and those who are not that our touch can be a form of loving that expresses healing, confidence and affection.

This is the invitation for us today. Though physically it is difficult these days to touch others, but at least make an effort to let those who need love and understanding be touched by your presence. Though we may not be able to caress the back of a friend for comfort, let those who are grieving and confused, those who are in pain and lost to be touched by the assurance of your friendship. Let those who are hungry and suffering in dire poverty be touched also by your generosity.

Indeed, there are many ways where we can touch other lives and become life-giving in our own profession and status in life. Thus, do not be afraid to touch others with the intention to give life and to be life for others. In this way, we are truly children of Mary, Our Mother of Perpetual Help, who continues to touch us today. Hinaut pa. Viva Maria! Viva Hesus!

Jom Baring, CSsR

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A Dose of God Today

A-Dose-of-God-Today : Your Daily Spiritual Nourishment, tries to put into words the thoughts and experiences of the wonder of life through the Holy Scriptures and the many invitations of God today.

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