27 A VIGIL, A DEPARTURE, A BEGINNING OF SORTS
ONE OF THE JOYS of this pre-Christmas season, this Holy Advent, each year is to bring food baskets, clothing, toys, gifts to the poor.
Today my co-struggler, whose kindness to this poor priest has made a place for me to live during this sabbatical, and I, spent most of the day going to those who have little, to pick-up gifts for those who have even less.
Some of what we did was to bring needed furniture to recent refugees from a country in Africa torn by civil war.
These refugees, in their homeland, are persecuted because they are Catholic. Many of the family members have been murdered, the children sold as slaves.
Here they suffer multi-tiered pain. They are reduced to extreme poverty, suffer because of the colour of their skin.
Tragically even the locals who pride themselves on prefixing their own identity with the word ‘ African ‘ reject these refugees because they are too black, too African.
This evening as I walked about the neighbourhood praying the rosary, looking at all the multi-coloured lights, my heart reflected on how we ooh and ah at the colours of fireworks, Christmas lights, autumn leaves, seek out brightly coloured clothing, postage stamps, posters, etc., yet, when it comes to the variety of natural hues of skin created by the Father to make His children beautiful, we see those colours as a litmus test which is designed to render the other a stranger as if they were not one like ourselves.
All men are endowed with a rational soul and are created in God’s image; they have the same nature and origin and, being redeemed by Christ, they enjoy the same divine calling and destiny; there is here a basic equality between all men and it must be given ever greater recognition. Undoubtedly not all men are alike as regards physical capacity and intellectual and moral powers. But forms of social or cultural discrimination in basic personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language or religion, must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God’s design. [bg]
As this millennium of division, this century of fratricide, comes to an end and we enter the new millennium, the Jubilee Year, my ardent prayer is that we will come to love one another.
Most ardently of all I beg for enlightenment that wherever in my own heart there is a refusal to see anyone as my brother, my sister, and to love them truly, as Christ does, that I repent of my sinful arrogance, bow low before them, begin again in Christ to love.
AS I PEN THESE NOTES, gathering up once more the threads of this story of the immensity of Divine Mercy, I am in a hospital room, keeping vigil at the bedside of the oldest of our priests.
It is another night vigil, a time of solitude.
A blessed time.
When a soul, a human being, like this old priest, is so in possession of the Holy Spirit their very body is luminous, just being within the radius of their presence is to be bathed in holiness as surely as the earth is constantly bathed in light and warmth by the radiant sun.
We’ve, myself, other priests, men and women of The Community, been keeping this nightly vigil for a couple of weeks now.
Tonight Father seems better. At least the IV’s have been removed, the heart monitor is gone.
Through these nights I am coming to understand, though not necessarily yet fully integrate in my thoughts, feelings, trust, that the coming to terms with the end of earthly existence, is a holy, if at times emotionally terrifying, reality which, as a comedian has noted, simply means facing the fact that for all of us death is instantaneous.
Mostly takes us by surprise too, hence the urging of Christ [Mk.13:33,37], echoed by the Apostle [1Th.5:2], that we be ready.
There is, of course, no better preparedness than a holy life.
Yesterday, at dawn, I left here. Left a priest who at that time seemed already to have one hand pushing at the heavenly gates!
After a couple of hours sleep I was deep in the forest with the men cutting firewood.
My job is a simple one, suited to my age and health.
I make piles of tree branches where there are too many to be left to degrade naturally on the forest floor. Once I have a good sized pile I set it ablaze.
A little flame from a match, touched to dried twigs, and soon there is a larger and hungrier flame which devours the piles, the heat causing snow on nearby high tree branches to melt, fall into the fire in clumps which sizzle!
Now, by Father in this hospital, I am beside a flame lit by Divine Fire at his baptism as a child, fuelled with sacred chrism at his ordination.
It is good to be near this fire!
The fire, of course, is Divine, and we are salted, baptized, with this fire and called, for we are anointed with same, like Christ Himself to spread this fire He came to ignite [Jer.23:29;Mk.9:49;Lk.3:16;Lk.12:49;Acts 2:3].