The Act of Forgiving

I couldn’t understand how the man could be falling behind so badly in his responsibilities in caring for her needs. The house was a mess, laundry was piling up, there was no food in the fridge. It concerned me greatly. And when I confronted him, expressing my concerns, he told me that caring for her required his 24-hour attention. He said he was exhausted catering to her needs every hour – so much so that he could do virtually nothing else. 
I hurt desperately for them both. I pitched in and did what I could to help. I sent him to the store. I did the laundry, cleaned the house from top to bottom, and my son cleaned their windows. And by the end of the day things looked much better. There was order in his life again and I hoped that it would help him to fulfil his responsibilities. 

But that evening, when the visiting nurse came on her home-visit rounds, she surprised me by what she had to say. She told me that virtually every time she came, he was on the computer playing games. He had become so addicted to them that he completely ignored her and the other staff when they came. She said it wasn’t her position or authority to point out to him that his home was collapsing around them because of this. And so he continued. 

Self-knowledge is a hard-won treasure, and even the best of us are blind to much of what our friends see clearly. Too often we blithely give convoluted explanations of our actions and intentions, which convince no one but ourselves. Fictions like 'I was just resting my eyes during the third act,' or ‘ my work has taken away all of my time for coming to church’ may make us feel fine, but fools no one. 

The self-deception may reach far deeper. We may well end up like the Pharisees, who clearly thought they were sinless and needful of no forgiveness, and therefore seemed apt critics of Jesus’ decision to consort with sinners. What they said sounds foolish and the height of arrogance, and indeed it was. But we do the same thing whenever we put ourselves outside the circle of the world's fools and sinners by ridiculing or denouncing them. 

If we were forced to depend solely on our lifetime record, unamended and uncleansed by any unearned forgiveness, we would all be doomed - without exception. We are all in trouble if left to our own devices. God gives His forgiveness freely; but there is no earning it. He asks but one thing in return, that we extend forgiveness with equal abandon to one another. 

If you want to be forgiven, then first learn to forgive.

I'm Just A Worker Bee

I’ve often been asked to define my role as a missionary. I have always chosen the word 'servant' or 'worker bee' as an encompassing description of my roles.

From time to time several people have had a go at defining what a priest is. I like what the Archbishop of Canterbury and titular head of the Anglican Communion, Robert Runcie, once said: ‘A priest has to be with God for other people and with other people for the sake of God.’

St. Paul had a lovely phrase: ‘Let people think of us as ministers of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God’. But I've never thought that when he wrote those words, Paul was thinking exclusively of priests. And I've thought that our job as priests was to remind everyone else that to be human is to be a steward of the mysteries of God.

When I've been baptising a baby, for instance, I've often been nearly overcome by the mystery of the young life I've been holding in my arms. But, of course, the parents are the stewards of the mystery of that infant.

When I've taken a wedding, I’ve often been as overcome by the mystery of human relating and human love embodied in the couple in front of me.

And when I've been visiting someone at death's door - or celebrating a funeral - the mystery of death has, as often nearly overwhelmed me.

But, of course the world is bubbling over with the mysteries of God - the mystery of beauty in music and art and nature - nor am I forgetting the mystery of evil - and its redemption.

I would say that we could describe our positions as a privileged life. Just fancy being among the first very often, when you see that warmth of awareness and acceptance that comes over someone when they have just received Christ’s love into their hearts and souls.

Or fancy being allowed to share with people - busily caught up in their immediate world of down-to-earth responsibilities - what you have learned to be the great mysteries of life - which are not just the problems to be solved, but the underlying awesome depths of our existence.

Or imagine the honour of being allowed to share with all who happen to be reading this today, the message that we are all stewards of God’s mysteries. And that no matter how challenging your day may have been, or how difficult your road is, or how dark things may seem at this moment, there is one undeniable fact:
You Are Loved!

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It's Tempting To Just Run Away

A man was walking down the street when he passed a house and saw a child on the porch, stretching to reach the doorbell. No matter how hard the little fellow tried, he couldn't reach that bell. So the man called out, ‘Hey, there, let me give you a hand.’ The man came up on the porch and rang the bell.

‘Thanks, mister,’ said the child, with a huge smile. ‘Now, let's run!’

Running away is a temptation that comes to us all. Sometimes, just for a moment, even the bravest of us would like to run away as hard and fast as we can because life seems just too much: needs of others, work, family issues, friends, exams, contracts, TV, and ourselves. Some days all of them or any one of them can make us want to run far and fast and let someone else clean up the mess. ‘Forget love and duty. I don't care what happens, just get me out of here!’

We've all thought it or said it, and sometimes we've done it. The temptation to run is real, and because it is real, it gives birth to a powerful kind of fear, the fear of being abandoned and left all alone.

We know only too well our own temptation to run, so it's only a short hop to the other side of the equation. What if everybody gets fed up with me, and runs away and leaves me all alone? What if God finally gets fed up with me, and leaves me all alone forever and ever? What if...?

The Eucharist is the Lord's answer to that terrifying ‘what if.’ In giving us His own body and blood to be eaten as often as we need it, Jesus is saying, ‘I'll always be here for you, and I'll never run away. Whenever you come to me, I'll nourish your spirit. I'll make you strong when you're weak. I'll be medicine for your heart, and I'll heal you on the inside when you've been wounded there.’

That's the promise Jesus made when He first gave us His body and blood, and it's the promise He renews every time we celebrate the Eucharist.

And what does He ask in return? Only that we not run away, not run away from our commitments or our challenges, not run away from ourselves or our need to change, and most especially, that we not run away from those who need us and those whom we serve.

At the moment of communion, as we raise up the host and proclaim ‘The Body of Christ,’ the Lord whispers to our hearts: ‘I'll always be here and always be enough for you. So promise me you'll never run away.’

And our hearts answer, ‘Amen. Yes, Lord. I know You are here; and You will always be enough for me. I promise I'll never run away. Amen, Lord. Amen.’

Gracious Lord, give us the strength to stand and the strength to lift others through Your love. There is no weight too heavy when Your hands guide us. Amen

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Spots Or Wrinkles

Spots Spots Spots! My teenage daughter sees things I cannot see. She’s certain that the moment one spot goes away there’s another lurking somewhere deep from within, ready to leap out. But I tell her truthfully; I can’t see any on her beautiful complexion.

‘Oh Daddy!’ she’ll sigh. And on it goes; typical of a self-conscious teenager.
It’s no different for adults. There’s a bevy of things for us to worry about. For example, watch the news for ten minutes. Or closer to home, take a look in the mirror: It's either pimples or wrinkles! You finally get rid of the one and then it’s time for the other to start showing up and unfortunately wrinkles don't go away, they just invite all their friends!
Trials and tribulations, irritations, and aggravations: That's life, but only one side of it. Because hidden inside every trouble and every aggravation is an opportunity just waiting to be noticed and taken hold of.
They’re an invitation from God to let go of what doesn't matter or doesn't work, and to search for what does matter and what can bring us joy and freedom. It’s His invitation to focus on straightening out what's behind the face, what's inside the head and deep within your heart.
Sometimes there are pains or frustrations that must be lived with; we can't make them go away. What's the opportunity there? Perhaps it's an invitation to relax in the Lord; to give ourselves over to Him at long last. Perhaps it's an invitation to let go of our obsessive perfectionism or our excessive need to control and focus on what really matters.
Each of us has our own special collection of stresses and hurts, and we know them well. But have we looked behind them? Have we searched in faith for the invitation God has wrapped inside them?
If we haven't, we're wasting a lot of time on pain and disappointment. That isn't what God wants for us. He is offering us joy and freedom for the taking, here and now. Look a little deeper and you'll find it, wrapped discretely inside your troubles.
If you look, you'll find it. I promise you it's there!.

Loving Father, it’s so easy to become laboured with life’s wrinkles. Teach us to accept what we cannot change. Grant us the wisdom to see beyond ourselves, that we may reach out to others and bring Your world closer. Amen

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Not That Old Chestnut Again!

In a recent edition of the diocesan magazine, Crux, the Bishop of Hulme, The Rt Rev. Stephen Lowe laments that the clergy are working too hard and are risking ‘burn-out’ or severe strains on their marriage.

Our cemeteries are filled with clergy who would love to have shared the same news with us. Unfortunately, a few of them probably dropped whilst running between countless PCC meetings, advisory groups, church fetes, tombolas, school assemblies, stewardship programmes, outward giving planning, evangelism initiatives, choir meetings, funerals for people whom they’ve never met, weddings, pastoral appointments for depressed individuals, failing marriages, infidelities, feed the homeless events, refugee conferences, and somehow in the midst of all this, following their daily ‘office!’

Bishop Lowe went on to say that some clergy never take holidays and he personally knows some clergy families who feel that they always come second. Well, bless his socks! I couldn’t agree more.

But here is where we seem to reach a fork in the road. The venerable Bishop suggests that clergy’s terms of employment could change radically over the next few years, ‘coming much closer to those enjoyed by the rest of the workforce.’ He even stated that the Church might consider imposing European regulations limiting the working week to a maximum of 48 hours.

This week’s news has shown some of the appalling conditions under which our military personnel work - often 24 hours a day, or in some cases until they drop, be it by a bullet or exhaustion. But did these soldiers not understand what the conditions would be before they enlisted in the military?

Don’t get me wrong, I completely agree with Bishop Lowe regarding the potential for burn-out. It is an indisputable fact this happens. But I also recognise that when humans feel they need to see their doctor they will not settle for a brief chat with the chemist at Boots. Trying to move clergy to a working schedule of hours could be compared with suggesting humanity try ‘DIY’ religion, which is already part of society’s greater problem.

So what’s the answer? I don’t feel there is a straightforward answer. And since I’ve spouted off with my own opinion, you would be quite within your rights to ask me what do I do?

It’s simple. I do every thing I can to serve everyone I can for as long as I can, until I recognise I’m about to drop. And then I try to take a day’s break…sometimes two, to regenerate, recharge, renew, and refresh, and then I get on with it again.

Why? Because what I do is a vocation - a calling to serve. It’s a joy to be part of people’s lives, to help when there is a need, to celebrate their joys and to mourn their sorrows. And sometimes, together, we find a moment, or an answer, that helps us have a little more understanding of God’s wonderful world around us.

Christ Jesus, teach me to be generous
Teach me to love and serve You as You deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To toil and not to seek for rest
To labour and to look for no reward,
Except that of knowing that I do Your Holy Will.

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Happy Mothering Sunday!

Happy 'Mothers Day!' For those of you who are not ‘POMMEYS’ (Prisoners of Mother England), this Sunday is ‘Mothers Day’ across the British Empire (as well as most other Christian communities). It’s actually known as Mothering Sunday, and is celebrated on the fourth Sunday of Lent. However, it has no association with the American holiday in May known as Mother’s Day, or as some cynics call it, ‘Hallmark Day.’

The original translation from Latin is a derivative of ‘Refreshment’ or ‘Laetare Sunday,’ during Lent: the first words of the opening prayer of the mass are Laetare Jerusalem (Rejoice Jerusalem), and honour is given to Mother Church. The extension to actual mothers was gradual, and became a time when children, mainly daughters, who had gone to work as domestic servants, were given a day off to visit their family.

Now, it is a day when children give presents, flowers, and cards to their mothers. But it can also be recognised, in its truest form, as a time to recognise those who are in the act of mothering. The dictionary defines ‘mothering’ as ‘to care for or protect.’ It is not gender specific. Unfortunately, as the distance between continents become shorter, the commercial aspects of this date overpower its broader and possibly purer origins.

‘Mothering’ comes from carers, nurses, male parents-people who serve others, those who provide loving, nurturing care as if they were the mother to the individual. These people are so often forgotten or ignored and it is sad that due recognition is often not given. The individual who has cared for an invalid or elderly person, who needed mothering in its truest sense, may be forgotten today and at all other times.

Most Sundays in the year churchgoers in England worship at their nearest parish or ‘daughter church.’ Centuries ago it was considered important for people to return to their home or ‘mother’ church once a year. So each year in the middle of Lent, everyone would visit the main church or Cathedral of the area.

Over time the return to the ‘mother’ church became an occasion for family reunions when children who were working away returned home. (It’s difficult to believe that less than a hundred years ago children who were as young as nine or ten would leave home to work in cities.)

And most historians believe that it was the return to the ‘Mother’ church which led to the tradition of children, particularly those working as domestic servants, or as apprentices, being given the day off to visit their families. As they travelled along country lanes, children would collect wild flowers or violets to take to church or give to their mother as a small gift.

The American holiday, which has sadly become so commercialised, began in 1912 when an International Mother’s Day association was formed, as a result of the efforts of a Methodist spinster, who recognised the importance of strengthening family ties. The United States Congress passed a joint resolution marking the second Sunday in May as the official ‘Mother’s Day.’ It was then proclaimed as a national holiday.

The American date never caught on in countries where the US didn’t have strong influence or control, because within the resolution was the mandate that the American flag be displayed on all homes and government buildings in reverence to the mothers of America. It just smelled a bit too nationalist for other countries.

No matter who it is that nurtures, cares for, supports, defends, helps and loves, they certainly deserve accolades of gratitude, praise and love. Today, above all, please don’t forget to recognise them, no matter where in the world you may be!

Almighty God, heavenly Father, you have blessed us with those who care for others. Give them calm strength and patient wisdom. Let the love they show for others be always a guide for us. Bless the mothers who bear Your children and guide their lives. We are all Your children. Amen

But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all. Galatians 4:26

Posted for Fr Bill+

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Shrove Tuesday, Why a Pancake?

OK, I’m rummaging through the fridge: eggs- yep, butter – absolutely! Now the cabinets: Flour –plenty, and yes…there it is – I’ve been saving it – a large bottle of pure Canadian maple syrup! Shrove Tuesday here we go!

It reminds me of children with their modern Advent calendars; chocolates, candies and other assorted surprises hiding behind each door. But sadly, there appears no mention of what the Advent calendar is about or its symbolism; just as with Shrove Tuesday; it is no longer Shrove Tuesday – it’s now Pancake Day!

Originally it was the day that people would confess their sins and receive absolution. Shriving - that act of forgiveness, where the individual is released from their suffering, pain and guilt, was in preparation for the season of Lent. During this time people would empty their larders, freeing their homes from foods such as: meats, eggs, fatty foods, fish and milk items. This prepared the home for the period of Lent – that time for reflection, renewal, and forgiveness. It's the last day before the period of penitence known as Lent, which commences on the 1st of March - Ash Wednesday.

Today so many people are becoming more health-conscious. Many of us are recognising the importance of cleansing our bodies through detoxification, fasting, and exercise. 
Shrove Tuesday is quite similar. It’s a celebration, as well as an act of penitence, in preparation of cleansing the soul. And Mardi Gras, the French translation for ‘Fat Tuesday’ is the celebration of that act.

How wonderful! We have cleaned out our fridges, and now we cleanse our souls. Indeed, it is a time to celebrate.

Compassionate and Loving God: Mercifully hear our prayers and spare all who confess their sins unto You. By Your merciful pardon may all be absolved; Through Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, one God, now and forever. Amen

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Testing The Waters

It is amazing how much of ourselves we unintentionally reveal in the course of ordinary conversation. Most of us don't have to talk very long before those who are listening have a fairly good fix on who we are and what we really value, even if our words themselves are intended to convey the exact opposite! Try listening to yourself some time. It can be both humorous and disconcerting.

St John the Apostle is a case in point. As we follow the Anglican cycle of prayer, in today's first reading, he reveals what he's really about when he explains that he's writing to his friends about Jesus so that 'our own joy may be complete.' In a word, John thinks of his own happiness as something that comes from sharing life and giving it away, not just from grabbing what he can get. And that explains the whole course of his very long life.

So where are we seeking our happiness? And are we finding it? Where have we invested our hearts? Where do we invest most of our waking hours? Are we facing the world, or are we hiding behind our computers, playing games and making excuses? Are we as happy as we'd like to be, or as we think we could be? And what does that tell us about the course we've charted for ourselves?

We're on the edge of a new year. It's a good time to ponder our priorities and set them right. Perhaps this year we can set aside our excuses as to why our duty to serve God somehow falls second and even third to our secular activities. Even clergy can fall prey to the secular or 'business' side of the church and lose track of our real roles.

It's a simple equation: We can either continue to tip our toes in and out of the living healing waters of Christ, or we can jump in and immerse ourselves in His life. It's our choice. He's there for us. But no matter what we do, we can't have it both ways.

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The Meaning of Christmas

There's some certainty to the fact that whoever is reading this page is an adult. And there is a statistical probability that you may not even have time to read this devotional, be it today, or ever. Bottom line...everyone is busy! People are making frantic dashes to the market and shops for that last minute purchase and some of us might even admit to be filling out a Christmas card for someone whom we 'forgot,' and are slightly uneasy over the fact we've just received a card from them. In other words, it's all a big rush.

But somehow, tonight, in whatever country you live, a sort of magic will fall on each of us. Sure, we'll probably still be stressed; someone will be fretting over the big meal that must be made and you'll somehow endure the bumping and pushing in stores, but on the whole, the Christmas magic will do its work- Kindness, good will, sympathy, compassion, and charity, and a willingness to overcome the Scrooge that is in many of us.

Of course, I will have to acknowledge with sadness that the Christmas Eve magic soon fades. The week will pass in a bewildering and dazzling kaleidoscope of tinsel, carols, turkey with all the trimmings, stockings and presents, Trivial Pursuit and party games, sports on the telly, and for us here in England: Her Majesty's Christmas message. Shortly after, however, the decorations will go back into the box; life will return to normal and Scrooge reigns for another year.

But at least as Christians, we do know that there IS another sense of values in which true meaning is found. If only the magic which possesses us at Christmas could be made to last, what a different world we would have- instead of a world in which we long for peace and prepare for war; instead of a world where we constantly make excuses for our own personal failures; instead of a world in which there is plenty to eat and where millions perish for lack of food; instead of a world where we talk so much of love but hate reigns- ah, Christmas Eve beckons us on, not to rely on magic but on action. When we are willing to invite the mysterious Christ-child into our hearts we will find that the Christmas 'magic' lasts forever.
Our Father, into this magical season of Christmas, we come to worship that little child whose nature revealed Your own and what ours might become. We pray that His spirit dwells within us that we may become His instruments in reaching to others. Amen

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Advent, Moving From Darkness to Light

November 27th marked the beginning of the season of Advent, in our preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus. The word 'Adventus,' in Latin, means a coming. Our faith is all about Christ and therefore we begin with His birth, His entrance into the world.

In many ways Advent is a time for renewal or a new beginning. We begin a new liturgical year, and begin once again, our never-ending quest to find our Lord Jesus Christ within our hearts.

Advent is also a time of watchfulness and waiting. We watch and wait for Him to come, that we might pass from our life of darkness into the life of light. The symbol of light is reflective of this Advent and Christmas season. This concept of light, being strongly associated with this time of the year, is not a Christian invention.

The choice to celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th was made as early as the year 273. This was the date for the pagan (Roman) celebration of "natalis solis invicti," the birth of the unconquered sun. The celebration of Christmas on the same date "Christianised" the ancient Roman feast of light.

During the darkest days of the year, where the days are short and cold, we long for the warmth of Spring, where life renews and once again becomes vibrant.

Advent is also a time for self-examination and asking for forgiveness, as we prepare for Christ’s Second Coming, even as we prepare for Christmas. This is why the colour of the season is purple (or sometimes blue), which is used for marking Lent, the season of self-examination preceding Easter.

The third week in Advent is set aside as more celebratory than the others. Rose is the colour of this week rather than purple, to mark the week, which is why a rose candle is used in Advent wreaths.

Advent, then, is a time of beginning, a time of watching, a time of light. It is a time for the decorations to begin. The lights of our Christmas trees, cribs, and other decorations sign The Coming, the birth of Christ, the Light of the Father, the Light of the World. He comes to light our path, the path to peace and justice, love and happiness.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Romans tells us "the night is advanced, the days are at hand. Let us throw off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light."

Yes, He is coming indeed!

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Remembrance Day

There is a passage in the New Testament that reads 'Greater love has no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friend.'

Whilst I can appreciate what the writer is saying, I have to say that I find it difficult to agree with. I think that there is a greater love than dying for a friend and that is dying for a stranger.

And it is precisely that which so many members of our armed services have done over the years and whose deaths we will remember this Remembrance Day.

Having served so many people, whose lives are either in the military or are touched by the military, I have often been struck by the number of similarities that seem to me, to exist between the lives and attitudes of the early disciples and soldiers today.

Consider both the soldier and the early disciples; each has or had a mission that was greater than their own lives. Both had a leader, whom they trusted and followed. And for the disciples, just as for some soldiers, that leader was killed whilst pursuing their common aim.

The impact of that event, on both disciple and soldier, is very similar, as it can affect the subsequent course of their entire life. In the same way both have a commitment that must put their families after their vocation: - 'he who follows me must leave his mother and his father and brother and sister' and again, 'No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.'

Finally, both are under discipline. In fact the word disciple comes from the same root as discipline: - one who follows.

Ultimately all discipline is self-discipline; all soldiers go about their business from an inner strength... as do all disciples.Lord Redeemer, give us the courage to do what we must to make our homes and society a better place for all, despite the fears and desires to live only for ourselves. Amen
Postat căci Tata Bill 


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The Road To Redemption

I received an interesting email from the states earlier this week. It was in response to my diary notes regarding the young girl I took to hospital to see the dead heroin addict. The writer was, for lack of any better way to describe it, admonishing me; not for the methodology I chose to use, but his perception of my failure to ‘seize the moment to bring that girl to Jesus!
This type of comment is not unlike some I’ve received in the past in response to my writings. But I was surprised at how quick the writer was to judge what the moment required for this girl’s 'salvation' (his words) and to a lesser extent, judge me.

For the girl in question, admittedly my goal was to show her a grim reality. But it was not the time or the place to have begun a methodical act of proselytising. It was, however, an opportunity for her to see the realities of where her life was heading.

First and foremost the child needed to acknowledge that she could go no lower. And hopefully, she was to see that there was light ahead for her. There was no doubt that the experience left her stunned and frightened.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, a common feature of parish life in the United States was the parish mission, a week-long retreat in which gifted visiting preachers would come in and try to scare people into repentance and confession.

Subsequent studies have discovered that the scare tactics were quite successful in the short term, but before too many months had passed things were back to normal for most of the participants.

Real conversion - tangible change that keeps on going, isn't all that easy. That’s why St Paul doesn't try to scare his converts to death; instead, he tries to encourage them. In essence, he says that whoever we are and wherever we come from, we’re all in the same boat, struggling against the current to build lives that are right and true. And best of all, we’re not struggling alone, because ‘Christ is everything in all of you.’

When your road gets rougher than usual or when you know you’ve made some bad choices, remember that God’s whole family is struggling along the same road with you and that God’s own son is right there in the midst of it all.

And what I saw and felt and believe this girl needed, more than anything in her life at that moment, was someone to acknowledge her humanity, without judgement, and to be there with her when she began her first steps in asking questions as to how could she change her life.
And if you're determined to judge this as a failure of a ministry, I fear you may have overlooked an essence of ministry that is essential to spiritual growth:
That is the ministry of presence.

Heavenly Father, we are quick to judge and discount others. Help us to have compassion and tenderness for all Your children. Teach us to be good comforters as well as guides, that all may live in Your light, through Christ our Lord. Amen


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We Are Never Alone

There are moments when we're very happy to be on our own. What wouldn't we give just to have a few minutes for ourselves! Yet in situations when we don't know if we can cope, or we're frightened, we want someone there with us.

I had just arrived in Moldova. The flights I had taken were long and exhausting and my long drive up to Heathrow Airport had begun at 2 in the morning. I had hoped to sleep for a few hours before I met with people. However, the gentleman who greeted me at the airport appeared extremely anxious as I exited the customs hall.

There was someone in hospital who needed a priest and would I come? Of course, there was no question. I went not knowing what to expect or if I would be adequate for the situation. My language skills were minimal at best, and I felt wholly inadequate, knowing that any words I could offer would most likely be misunderstood.
When we arrived at the crumbling building of a hospital, I was taken to the bedside of a person who was unconscious and dying. There was no family or friend present. I was the only one there. My host explained to me that the dying man was his neighbour and they had been friends for many years. He had spent the day at hospital with his friend and had only left him in order to come get me at the airport.

We had never met. I knew nothing about the person at whose bedside I stood and whose shallow breathing I measured. Yet, in a way that I couldn't express, I knew we weren't strangers in this moment, when life was ending we all stood within the same circle of faith.

As I began the beautiful, simple and gentle liturgy of anointing and the prayers for the dying, I also knew we weren't alone. The whole community was present; the community in which we always stood, whose prayers and loving presence always surrounded us. Here, in the silence of the night, we not only entered the mystery of death but the power of God’s guidance.

I knew that even if I had not been able to come to Moldova that day, this man would not have been alone. Whatever our circumstances, this is true.

This is Christ's gift to us; in the mystery of His Communion the wound of our loneliness is healed.

Holy Lord, show us that we have nothing to fear, for with You we are never alone. Help us to see that our community of faith is global and transcends all borders, forever surrounding us and upholding us. Pray for us now and at the hour of our death. We pray in the name of Your Son, Christ Jesus. Amen

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