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The chaplain

From The Christian Science Journal - April 22, 2013

As I pulled up in front of the building, I prepared myself for a busy day. As a volunteer Christian Science chaplain at a state mental hospital, I knew this—like so many before—would be a challenging but rewarding visit.

Over the preceding months I had established a regular route through the hospital, greeting psychiatrists and medical doctors on my way to meet with patients who were interested in talking to me. Sometimes they just wanted a copy of The Christian Science Monitor, or an issue of the Christian Science Sentinel or The Christian Science Journal. Others wanted to pray together, eager to uplift the veil of mental illness, with which they’d been diagnosed. 

During this priceless experience I learned—even through the fog of the aggressive suggestions of incapacity, the inability to think, reason, or act logically or in conformity with what we consider “normal” behavior—to see that the true “base line” of sanity is the evidence of God’s love and intelligence at work. 

As a pioneer in religious thought, spiritual healer Mary Baker Eddy revealed how Jesus was so successful in his healing work. She states: “Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God’s own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 476–477). I love Jesus’ assertion—his correct view—of man’s perfection when he said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). That’s a pretty firm statement. And it surely worked—as he went through his human experience healing the multitudes. 

In my duty as chaplain, I was there to comfort others with the universal laws of God, good; but when I look back on that experience, I remember a meaningful insight that has truly comforted me over the years. 

No matter how heavy the weight that tries to hypnotize spiritual seekers across the globe, how much greater is the call for us to heal “by prayer and fasting”
(Matthew 17:21).

Before I left the hospital on that particular day, I was standing in a stairwell, when tears suddenly began to well up. I was momentarily overcome by what some of these patients, who had become my friends, seemed to be going through. I stopped right there on the stairs and prayed to our Father-Mother God to show me why my prayers hadn’t lifted up all the patients out of this mesmerism, this lie of separation from God’s Love—His intelligence and stability. 

It was then that God’s angel message came to me. The message was in the form of something I remembered from Sunday School, when I was a boy, from John 11:35, just two simple words: “Jesus wept.” For the very first time I understood that Jesus wept, too— overtaken with despair over the passing of his dear friend Lazarus. It seemed to me that in that fleeting moment, the sheer weight of the human scene tried to pull Jesus down and sadden him—that persistent mortal material thinking that would attempt to convince one to accept sin, disease, or death as reality. But as I stood there in the stairwell, something else occurred to me. Jesus quickly recovered. He knew the absolute truth—the perfection of God’s man. And in demonstration of the unreality of that triad of evil, he raised Lazarus from the tomb. 

Those words “Jesus wept” had new meaning for me. They were no longer just a memory from a long-ago time in Sunday School. I understood the pull of despair in seeing the world’s resistance to the healing truth that Jesus taught. Deep within me I felt a strong conviction of how much more consistently—how much more joyfully—I needed to work and pray to uplift myself and others.

No matter how heavy the weight that tries to hypnotize spiritual seekers across the globe, how much greater is the call for us to heal “by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21). 

The reminder of Jesus’ momentary tears, his deep love for his friend Lazarus, and the raising of that friend from the tomb, has had an ongoing influence on my own experience. One doesn’t have to be a Christian Science chaplain to see through the claim of suffering. In our daily rounds we can welcome the opportunity to acknowledge that the Father compels us to “take ye away the stone” (John 11:39) whenever we are tempted to see a mortal, material view of life, where the image of sin, disease, or death confronts us. 

With honest and fearless hearts we can go forward, led by God—as this verse from one of my favorite hymns promises:

The Great Physician liveth yet
     Thy friend and guide to be;
The Healer by Gennesaret
     Shall walk the rounds with thee.
(John Greenleaf Whittier, Christian Science Hymnal, No. 96)

By holding in thought that precious example of the Master, healing all who came to him for help, we can all “walk the rounds” knowing that God, the great Physician, is with us every step of the way.

Patrick Collins lives in McCaysville, Georgia.

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