Hospital: A Sanctuary Where Love Dwells
by Elbert Balbastro
Elbert is a Filipino Columban seminarian.
People often think of hospitals as a place where only pain and suffering occur. Most people, including myself, would probably say that the hospital is the last place they want to be in. However, it is also a place where genuine love exists, as I discovered while working in the hospital apostolate.
Every Sunday, I visit one of the public hospitals in Metro Manila. Seeing a patient suffer in pain or having difficulties in breathing; seeing them alone, crying and trembling with fear, breaks my heart. Yet, I have witnessed no shortage on the capacity of human beings to love others. The kind of love that is so strong, it gives hope and healing.
One day, I visited an HIV-AIDS patient with sores and open wounds all over his body. His mother told me, “Brother, the wife of my son left him because of his condition but I cannot leave him. He needs me and I love him so much that I am willing to sacrifice everything, even endure this terrible smell just to be with him.”
In another instance, I saw a father caressing the hair of his son who has HIV and meningitis. He disclosed, “I gave up my job to be with my 22-year-old son. I am relying on my relatives’ support. It is ok for me to go hungry, sleep on the floor or become tired as long as I am beside my son.”
Non-verbal gestures of love are also present in the form of two daughters holding their father’s hands and a friend sitting beside the bed of a man who was abandoned by his family. “I am fighting because even though my family has abandoned me, I know that there is a friend beside me who loves me and wants me to live.”
While reflecting and praying over my experiences in this ministry, I wonder why God doesn’t heal all those who are sick. With his power, surely Jesus can heal thousands of people with just a word or a gesture. But as the gospel mentioned, Jesus heals each person by engaging them. He cured Bartimeaus and the man with a withered hand by his touch. I was brought to the insight that God is a personal God. He expresses His love by knowing and meeting the person. With that, comes the inspiration and invitation for me to do the same. Loving others needs to be engaging and personal, not passive.
As we celebrate Advent, the Season of Waiting patiently for God’s coming, we are called to pay attention to the present moment, to pay attention to what is happening right before our eyes and seeing God’s coming unfolding before us, engaging with us in human form. It is the season to love others, especially those who are sick and abandoned by the society. A hospital may be a place of sadness and grief but inside its doors and along the halls, the spirit of Love works overtime to give patients a reason to stay alive and get better. Let us be life-giving to others, offering hope especially to those in the margins.