First of all, welcome back.
It is wonderful to see you all here, a community to worship and pray with.
Thank you for your support through this lockdown, and we pray we never to have to do it again.
One of the reasons we should come to Mass is to help us to become saints. What do saints look like? Last Monday was the feast of All Saints, and the readings for today are all about, among other things, being a saint.
Shortly after I was ordained I was talking with one of my priest mentors about the chapel congregation we served, and I remarked on how good some of the families were. He said to me, in a very offhand way as if telling me something very obvious ‘Oh mate, there are almost always greater saints in the pews than up on the altar.’
One of the great fruits and gifts of ministry, certainly for me, has been the opportunity to see saints. Of course you can’t tell people they are saints, because they normally won’t believe you, but to see good people doing their best to live a life for others, to be the love of Christ for those they live with, work with, or meet, is a great gift. One of the gifts that regular prayer can give is the gift to see goodness all around you.
I want to share a story with you from my currently ministry. This year I’ve ministered four days a week as a chaplain at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. As you might guess it’s been a tough year for all at the hospital, the pandemic has had a big effect on all our communities, but certainly on those working in healthcare generally, and at the public hospitals in particular.
A few months ago I was asked to visit a patient who would need support. This was an intellectually disabled lady in her 50s. She couldn’t speak - the technical phrase is ‘non-verbal’ - and didn’t really understand what was going on. She had a serious physical issue that was going to need surgery. Being in hospital as a patient can be quite scary for any of us, but for this lady that fear would have been compounded by her confusion and disability.
During the pandemic the rule has been, quite rightly, that visitors are not normally allowed because of the fear of contagion When I went into her room however, I was relieved to see that the powers that be at the hospital had given special permission for her mother to be with her, and indeed had set up a second bed in the room. Mum was a lady in her 80s, a migrant with a heavy accent. I’d only been with her a short time before I realised two things. Mum was a woman of deep Catholic faith, with a tremendous devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady, and secondly, when I saw Mum look at her daughter and heard her speak to her, that she loved her daughter deeply. I visited them a few times, brought them holy communion, and was deeply humbled by Mum’s gratitude for the blessed sacrament.
I had no doubt I was in the presence of a great saint.
Being the parent of a severely disabled person is not easy, and for most there will be times of frustration, even times of despair when love can seem difficult. I don’t really know the story of this mother and daughter, of their family and what it has been through. But I did see love, giving of yourself.
Elijah in the first reading, and our Lord in today’s gospel, also saw saints. Not in the powerful and influential , not in those with the fine robes and the places of honour, but in people who give, even when there seems to be nothing left.
These are saints, people who show us the love of God in action. Let’s pray that we can all have the gift, the privilege, of recognising these saints as we meet them in our daily life..