What I Have Seen and Heard
Published: November 15, 2007
The 13th chapter of the Gospel of St. John begins the magnificent narrative that is unique to John’s Gospel of the prayer that Christ offered on the night before He died for us. It is in this chapter of the Gospel that Christ gives us the extraordinary expression of Christian service in the foot-washing example that is John’s eucharistic paradigm.
After two thousand years we still marvel at this expression of humble service that Christ first performed for the twelve and then invited them to follow in His pattern. Such humble service is a spiritual example of how we are to care for one another at all times. Each time we share in the Eucharist, we should all remember how intensely Christ has loved us and invited us to love and care for one another.
There are many professions in our contemporary world that offer occasions to serve others in such gospel-like gentility—nursing certainly ranks high on that list. I’ve known many nurses throughout my life, most especially my own sister Elaine. She frequently has described the qualities that truly professional nurses must exhibit each day. I was very fortunate to have the care of a staff of truly wonderful nurses during my stay at the hospital as well as a wonderful nurse who visited me at home each of the first few days as I began my recuperation.
Foot washing is only one way that nurses often serve the needs of their patients. They performed many other activities that humbled me as I received their compassionate attention. My nurses came from many different places throughout the world—locally from here in Georgia and from faraway places like New York, New Jersey, India, Pakistan, the Philippines and Nigeria as well.
Some of them were not of the Christian faith and therefore they would not necessarily have known about Christ’s example of humble service. Yet I could not help but experience in the tenderness of their care an example that kept Jesus’ image very much alive in my heart during this time in my life.
Some people might suggest that the nurses were merely performing their profession as a job and means of employment, and so it would be unfair to compare their kindness with the example of faith that is found in St. John’s Gospel. True, these nurses were paid for their service, but their kindness went well beyond what I might have expected from such a group of professionals. That is always the pattern that we discover when we encounter an extraordinarily devoted teacher, a banker who goes beyond what we might have anticipated upon entering the bank, a contractor who fulfills his responsibilities in such an honest and timely manner that we are impressed with his dedication.
The list of people who frequently go above and beyond what we might have originally expected is much longer than we occasionally hope for. And whether they do so as an expression of professional competence or as an example of their faith, we can often see Christ present in their actions.