Homily for St. John’s Eye Hospital


A brief homily offered at the Service of Lessons and Carols at Christ Church, Kensington, on December 5, 2010. The event was sponsored by the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and raised money for the work of the St. John Eye Hospital in East Jerusalem and the St. John Clinics in Gaza and West Bank.

There is a tension to the season of Advent. On one hand the church is encouraged to wait and to watch, to pray for the Day of the Lord. But on the other hand, we are told to prepare the way [now], to get ready, to be alert and stay awake.

In scripture and song we have heard how God’s hope builds to a culmination that hangs upon the word of one young, Jewish girl named Mary. And Mary has a choice.

Perhaps she will wait. Perhaps she will wait on some further word from God, a better set of circumstances, a husband with a steady job, or simply a more convenient time.

Or, she will respond. She will act. She will try to live into God’s word, even as God’s Word takes on new life within her.

We, like Mary, have choices– as individuals, as families, as congregations. We can choose simply to wait, and allow God’s will to unfold (in God’s own good time). Or we can make our waiting meaningful and productive. We can do our part to assist God’s kingdom on earth, (doing all those things the prophets talk about) beating swords into plowshares, spears into pruning hooks, and walking in the light of the Lord. We can do that here, now, and every day.

And so we don’t always just wait. We also act in faith.

The St. John Eye Hospital is one place where many of us in this room and beyond have decided to act. With regard to those in East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the West Bank (a third of whom are under the age of ten) we have not been content simply to wait.

When we heard that children could not have need eye procedures because of the lack of equipment, we sent $10,000 for equipment which was used in the clinics. When the people of Christ Church, All Souls, and others learned that it only takes $2,000 to cover the cost of a cornea transplant, we got busy, we raised money, and over the last few years, twelve transplants have been done. Two corneas came from Tissue Banks International, in Baltimore, and one was even hand-carried to the hospital by Victoria Sheffield, a St. John’s Board Member from our area.

When could still send toys for children in the hospital, we did that. Some of you have done amazing things on your own. Our local fundraising committee has been busy—showing us how to have fun or learn something (while we reach for our wallet). Last year, Father Hague and some of you visited Jerusalem and took baby blankets and medical supplies. Dr. Larry Schwab and Martha Schwab have visited, worked, and assisted. Others from our churches and the Washington, D.C. chapter have visited the hospital and clinics, and in so doing, have enabled a ministry of presence and relationship.

Though we continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, we pray for our leaders—both political and ecclesiastical—we do not only wait. In different ways and in different contexts, we sing, and bake, and encourage, and harangue “for the faith and in the service of humanity.”

And there is more to do.

More education and medical outreach needs to be done (and that costs money.) More equipment needs to be purchased and put to work. With more money for transportation, medicine, and medical salaries, more operations can be done. More eyes can be opened more vision made clear, and in so doing, a better future emerges.

As we continue through this season, may our waiting be full and productive. May we be ever alert to opportunities for service, for love, and for sharing the light of Christ. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

About John F. Beddingfield

Rector of The Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in New York City on East 88th Street between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave.
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