I have a number of friends still alive, I am happy to report, who were born approximately when I was. When I write them and wish them a happy birthday, I always tell them that I am one person they will never hear complaining about getting older. I believe getting older is better than the alternative! I always say it's better to be "seen" than to be "viewed."
I definitely feel, not in a morbid way, that I am quickly and inevitably rolling down the home stretch of life approaching the finish line of mortality. It causes me to reflect on my life and what good I may or may not have done.
Many years ago, when I was the Institute director at the Cerritos, California, Institute of Religion, part of my duties included being the general manager of a patriotic singing group, sponsored by the Institute, called "The Grand Land Singers." They performed all over the United States, and I truly enjoyed the four years I spent with them. I left that assignment in the late 70s, but I can still remember several of the songs the group sang at almost every performance. One that I think a great deal about as I grow older is: "I May Never Pass This Way Again." It was written by Murray Wizel and Irving Melcher. The artist who made it famous was Perry Como. Some of you old guys may remember it. The lyrics are as follows:
"I'll give my hand to those who cannot see the sunshine or the fallin' rain.
I'll sing my song to cheer the weary along,
For I may never pass this way again!
I'll share my faith with every troubled heart, so I shall not have lived in vain.
I'll give my hand, I'll sing my song,
I'll share my faith, because I know, that the time is now to fulfill each vow,
For I may never pass this way again!"
Those beautiful lyrics, to me anyway, penetrate my heart as I ponder what I have done with these precious years I have spent on this earth. I know that as we finally cross the finish line of mortality and enter the Spirit World, all of the worldly possessions, high profile positions in the world and the Church, degrees, and the honors of men, won't amount to anything!
The Savior passed "this way" of mortality but once, and demonstrated to us what our priorities should be. I believe Christ's mission was twofold: (1) to fulfill the Law of Moses, to work out the infinite atonement, and to teach his Gospel. (2) But also to bless the lives of his brothers and sisters during the brief time he was with them by healing their souls – body and spirit. [
In my study of the four Gospels, I have discovered, as many others have as well, I am sure, that much of Christ's ministry was not spent just in teaching but in healing the sick and afflicted. I have discovered there are 53 references which use the word heal, or a derivative thereof such as healing or healed when referring to the Savior's blessing the sick. There are also an additional three references using the words cure or cured. These references do not include the times he raised the dead, or gave sight to the blind. I am sure what we have recorded in the Gospels is but the tip of the iceberg, with regard the healing part of his ministry.
In reading these accounts, I have been impressed by two things: (1) what a large part of the Savior's ministry was spent in healing the souls of his brothers and sisters; and (2) the great compassion he had for them.
I love Dr. Elaine Marshall’s (former Dean of the BYU College of Nursing) summary from the scriptures of this aspect of the Savior’s ministry.
“As Jesus healed, the scriptures say, "All the people were amazed" (Matthew 12:23). They brought their sick, their "blind, and dumb" (Matthew 12:22), those that were "possessed with a devil" (Matthew 12:22; also Mark 1:32), and their dead. They sought Him every day and into the evening. So great was His reputation and His healing power that they sought to "only touch the hem of his garment; and as many as touched were made perfectly whole" (Matthew 14:36). "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching . . . and preaching the gospel . . . , and healing every sickness and every disease among the people" (Matthew9:35).”(April, 2004 Ensign, 57.)
It is a daunting task to seek to follow Christ's example of love and compassion to those with special needs who are all about us. Knowing "we will never pass this way again," however, what better way can we, or should we, use these few fleeting and fragile hours of mortality than to try to emulate the example of the Master Healer?
Believe it or not this is a Christmas letter. Truly celebrating the birth of Christ and his subsequent mortal mission, it seems to me can best be done by committing ourselves to follow His example of compassion, love, and desire to bless even "the least of these our brethren" who surround us on every side.
At the final judgment day, when the sheep are gathered together by the Good Shepherd on His right hand, He will say to them, "…Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison ,and ye came unto me… Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." [Matthew 25:31-46 – Emphasis added]