As a hospital chaplain I see sickness all the time. In every bed I visit there lies a story of discomfort, suffering, or even death.
To a certain extent one needs to detach, actually - to a large extent - and tell oneself: this is not my sickness, this is not my suffering, this is not my death.
I have spoken to various people who can't do this, who can't detach. Some of them feel guilty and imagine some sort of 'obligation' to suffer along with the patient. Others just won't go into the room for a visit because it causes them too much distress to see someone else's pain.
After all this time I've come to recognise that I experience most distress when called to visit a couple who lose a child before or at birth. This defeats my best efforts to detach and I often find myself weeping along with the parents.
Having said all this let me share with you an experience I occasionally have when celebrating the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
After all the appropriate prayers are said there comes the time for the priest to anoint.
I dip my thumb in the oil and then reaching out my arm and placing my thumb on the forehead of the sick person I sometimes feel I am 'claiming' him as my brother. In fact, more than that, I sometimes have the impression I am anointing myself. Isn't that curious?
It's as though the two of us were really 'one' body and my arm, the healthy part of the body, were reaching out and anointing him, the sick part of my own body.
For a split second the sick person and I are one. For a split second his sickness is mine and my health is his.
St Paul had a lot to say about us all being part of the one body and maybe this is just a little glimpse into the truth of this reality which is usually hidden from us.