I am a documentary nut. I love to watch them on all the streaming things. Recently, I have watched multiple accounts of the journey of patients with AIDS – both in the early days of the epidemic and the advancements in treating the disease. One of these stories was the account of program that was started in Salt Lake City’s Holy Cross Hospital.
In the mid-80s, these women of faith stood eye to eye with one of the most hope-LESS diseases of our time. With no cure and an almost certain death sentence, they loved and cared and nursed and offered grace in ways that I can almost promise none of them ever intended. It’s almost as if they were open to not-knowing…
One of the sisters, Bernie Mulick said, “It’s part of our mission as Sisters of the Holy Cross to care for those who are poor and sick and needy. We have always cared for the forgotten ones, for the underdogs. They were the railroaders and the coal miners in our earliest days in Utah. During the 1980s and 1990s, individuals with HIV and AIDS were the lepers of the time, and no one else was taking care of them.”
Another nurse, Sr. Linda Bellemore said, “Those were the years of fear about the transmission of this terminal disease resulting in alienation from family, friends and society due to their diagnosis. At the time of their lives when they most needed care and support, how could I not help? The need was obvious, and I am committed to serving people as Jesus did, especially the poor and alienated.”
Watching this film made be want to be that kind of hope dealer. These women were hope with skin. The kind of hope that stands in the face of death and pain and horrible alienation and loves. Because there was no cure. There was no medicine. There was not even a promise of acceptance and basic care. And yet the Sisters offered hope in the midst of the darkest, darkest pain.
We don’t get to have hope without having seen pain. Hope dares to admit that not everything is as it should be, and so if we want to be hopeful, first we have to walk into the darkness. First we have to see that something is broken and there is a reason we need hope to begin with.
Advent matters, because it’s our way of keeping our eyes and our hearts and our arms all wide open, even in the midst of our not-knowing and darkness and longing. The weary world is still waiting in so many ways, in so many hearts, in so many places, for the fullness of the Kingdom of God to come.
Advent is for the ones who know longing for that kind of hope.