“When Daddy and I drive up to Pennsylvania, we go to have fun at Dutch Wonderland or ride the old steam engine train from Strasburg. I like to see the horses and buggies the Amish people still drive or watch them plow with teams of horses in the fields. What did you do in Lancaster last week, Grandma?”
“I used to live there with your grandpa Ted who is in heaven, whom you never met. Your Daddy lived there with us when he was a teenager. Your uncles were already grown up and living somewhere else. When I go to Pennsylvania, I don’t usually go to see the things you do because they are sort of everyday common sights. I drove there this time to visit.”
“Did you visit people who were your friends when you lived there?”
“They are still my friends. But many of them are in Retirement Homes or Care Centers, or even in the hospital. Most of them are quite elderly now. They need people to take care of them. Jeffrey, I’ll tell you a secret. I really went to visit Jesus.”
“Jesus is in heaven and in my heart. How could you visit Jesus in Pennsylvania?”
“Let me read you something from the Bible that Jesus said when He was living on the earth:
“When I [Jesus] was hungry, you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.
Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did ….[we do that]?
Then the King [Jesus] will say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”
“Grandma, did you go to see people in prison?”
“There are many kinds of prisons, Jeffrey. Not all of them have bars and locks. A prison can be any situation people can’t get out of, or some place where they don’t want to be; some place where they have to be, not because they committed a crime but because they became sick or very old and needed to be where someone could take care of them."
“Like a Nursing Center? Once I visited my Daddy’s friend Charlie in Florida where he was in one after his surgery. He had a really little room. When he got better, he went back to live in his big house with his dog and cat.”
“Sort of like that. But many people have to live the rest of their lives in Nursing Homes or Retirement Homes. One of my friends is nearly 100 years old; others are in their nineties. They are away from their familiar surroundings and miss their own homes and all the things they enjoyed doing there for many years with their families. They aren’t going to get well again and return home. All of them are widows whose husbands have died.”
“Don’t people take good care of them in those places?
“Mostly they are treated well, but they are lonely for their friends and family. Sometimes their families live far away and can’t come to visit them very often. Sometimes they feel like their friends have forgotten all about them.”
“Are they really hungry and thirsty?”
“Not like for food and water, but hungry for someone to visit and give them a hug and spend time with them, pray with them, and maybe bring them a little gift.”
“You told me you brought some sugar-free chocolate to one friend and it melted in your hot car on the way. Did that make her sad?”
“No, it was a joke to her; she tasted some right away and had fun licking her fingers. She put it in her refrigerator to get it back in shape so she could share it with her friends in the Care Center. Some people, however, are hungry for real food and thirsty and homeless and need clothes and other things so that they don’t have to live on the streets.”
“So when we give them whatever they need, did Jesus mean that it was just as if we were doing it to HIM?”
“That’s exactly what He meant! And that is what I did when I went to Pennsylvania. I visited two people who are blind now. They feel like they are in a prison of darkness. Some of my other friends are in a ‘wheelchair prison’ and will never be able to walk again. One friend has been in a wheelchair for almost 50 years because of a sickness she got when she was young. Another friend’s body is slowly growing weaker all over; she is a prisoner to a fatal illness. Still another friend’s memory is nearly gone, and I’m not sure she knew who I was. We had been good friends long ago.”
“Did you hug her anyway, Grandma?”
“I sure did, and I spent time talking with her about things we used to do together whether she remembered or not. We held hands and laughed and I prayed for her; her tears wet my cheek when I hugged her. She cried because she felt happy. I asked a nurse to take a picture of us, and I sent it to her to remind her of our visit.”
“Did you really feel like it was Jesus whom you were visiting while you were with your friends?”
“I did, Jeffrey. But even if you don’t feel it, since Jesus said it was true, it is. And you don’t have to go far away to do such things. Jesus said that even when you give a cup of cold water in Jesus’ Name to someone, God notices it. The Bible says that God keeps a record of it when you do anything good even in your family or among your friends. That includes obeying your parents promptly.”
“Will doing good things get you to heaven, Grandma?”
“No, Jeffrey. Doing good things doesn’t get you to heaven; only believing in God and accepting Jesus into your heart and being baptized gets you to heaven. But doing good deeds shows that you really do have faith in Jesus, and you will have a reward when you get to heaven.”
“Maybe I could go with you sometime when you visit Jesus again.”
“To tell the truth, I visit Jesus every day by whatever I try to do for others. Like e-mailing to encourage people, phoning sick or lonely friends at least every week, helping those who have problems, praying for them, taking care of you and my family. And whenever we go to Mass or spend time quietly in the Adoration Chapel, Jesus is really there. Some of those things you can do too and you will be visiting Jesus!”