Sacred Space by Br John Venard FMS
MY desk calendar has a quote from Sir William Osler who revolutionised medical teaching.
“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease has a patient”.
Sir William put people first; he was a people person.
He was just following the example of Jesus who was a people person and made sure that those who came in contact with him knew that they were loved personally.
As a Jew, Jesus knew the importance of rules, structures and traditions but when it came to applying them, the good of the person concerned got consideration.
Once, Jesus and his disciples were walking through cornfields.
His disciples picked some ears of corn and the Pharisees accused them of breaking the law by working on the Sabbath. Jesus defended them, pointing out, “The Sabbath was made for the good of human beings; human beings were not made for the Sabbath.” (Mark2:27) This principle can be applied to all law.
Jesus taught the law, but as a people person he also taught that discretion could over-rule law at times.
On another occasion, the Pharisees brought along a woman who had been caught in adultery.
They claimed that according to the law, she should be stoned to death; what was his verdict?
Jesus did not question the law but considered the person first. He told the Pharisees that the one who was without sin should throw the first stone.
As he began to write on the ground they all slunk away
Jesus had a message for the woman, “I will not condemn you,” showing forgiveness, but then emphasises the importance of the law with “Go, but do not sin again.” (John 8:11)
Sir William Osler was applying Jesus’ message to a modern situation but not only did he teach the importance of the individual, he led by example.
He was once visiting a children’s hospital and in one ward all the children were clustered at one end playing games – all except one little girl who sat forlornly on the edge of her bed, hungrily clutching a cheap doll.
The great physician looked at the lonely little figure, then at the ward sister.
“We’ve tried to get Susan to play,” the sister whispered, “but the other children will have nothing to do with her. You see, no one comes to see her. Her mother is dead and her father has been here just once – he brought her that doll. The children have a strange code. Visitors mean so much that if you don’t have visitors, you are ignored.”
Sir William walked over to the little girl’s bed and asked in a loud voice, “May I sit down please?”
The girl’s eyes lit up. “I can’t stay long this visit,” Sir William went on, “but I’ve wanted to see you so badly.”
For five minutes he sat talking with her, even inquiring about her doll’s health and solemnly pulling out his stethoscope to listen to the doll’s chest.
And as he left, he turned to the youngster, a twinkle in his eyes and said in a carrying voice, “You won’t forget our secret will you? And mind, don’t tell anyone.”
As he left, he turned back and saw his new friend the centre of a curious and admiring throng.
Jesus is still present in the world through his disciples.
“I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these members of my family, you did it for me!” (Matt 25:40).