Wednesday, 27 April 2011


Gospel Luke 24:35-48 

The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.

They were still talking about all this when he himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.

Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.

Some months ago I went to a dinner dance - not my usual sort of thing; an annual event at my husband's sports club. Over many years I have got to know the players and their partners only through events such as this;  once we have exchanged updates on families, holidays and health it can be a struggle for conversation; well for me.

This time, someone asked about my job and I was telling them about the pastoral work it involved. Suddenly it went around the table that not only did I work in a Catholic school; but that  my work was informed by my faith and that, not only did I go to Mass, but that it wasn't just on Sundays. I discovered that I was sitting at a table of 'lapsed' Catholics all quite astonished that this was the way I lived my life. My husband turned his eyes to heaven and went and sat elsewhere.

The conversation continued as people 'confessed' when they had given up on their faith; when science; grief; boredom or cynicism had got in the way. How it was something to reminisce about; but something that had been left behind like Father Christmas, a childish memory, because life can't be lived like that. But then, quite maudlingly, they wanted the reassurance that it could; that it wasn't too late; that there is always hope.

I almost didn't know what to say; I can get quite evangelical when asked to speak to groups who have gathered to listen; I try to live my faith in my everyday life but I couldn't tell where this was going. There was a sense of real responsibility in however I responded. It seemed as if I was meant to let them in on some great secret.

 Knowing what to do when people are asking you for proof is difficult - I can't prove God exists; I can't explain suffering or evil; I can't say why it's not a waste of time. That's as bad as trying to explain what love is, what joy is.

 I admitted how I had struggled in the past; how it hadn't been easy; how sometimes it still wasn't. I told them that sometimes I try to do the right things and hope they are for the right reasons; and sometimes I just have to sit and wait and pray , and sometimes the flames of hope are fanned; the ghost that is faith suddenly becomes real; opens eyes and heart; feeds me and makes me whole and when it does - I know God is present - he, himself standing beside me.

Loving God, loving people, is my whole life; May it always be my whole life, 
this is what I hope for.— Charles de Foucauld



claire said...

Beautiful, Word. Simply beautiful. And all these people must have found you so lucky. And you gave them the desire to try it again. Wonderful. Wonderful.
Bravo and thank you :-)

Andie said...

I agree with Claire, Word. It was the words about yourself that surely rang true, no preaching, no trying to defend, just honest, raw faith. That is what attracts people, I believe. It's them wanting 'what you got'. God certainly works mysteriously, who knows what they took away from that the way, my husband would have done the same thing!

Philomena Ewing said...

Great post and it says a lot about your approach. Before I went to Malawi many years ago a priest friend said to me keep the faith and spread it gently and that always remains with me. the people you spoke to obviously felt safe to talk to you and open up without fear of recrimination and that speaks volumes for you.

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you all; I have been given the 'gently' advice myself. As Cuthbert said about the Celts - give them milk and then you can give them cream.
Who knows what makes a difference. blessings m+x