3rd Sunday in Advent - Year B - Sunday, 17th December 2017
Damian was aged 66, long divorced and childless, away from the church for almost 40 years, he was inspired to pay a visit to the Catholic Church he just happened to be passing. He got a warm welcome from a Welcomer and a few gave him a nod of interest.
Starting in 2009 — and for the next three years — he grew to have faith in this church community, becoming an official parishioner, joined parish groups, met some inspiring people.
But his faith in the Church didn’t come with his arrival at Church. Nor did he feel a deep understanding of, or connection to, God, Jesus or doctrine. Which is why when the recession forced a move to a more affordable part of London, he gradually fell off church going.
Then one day, while wandering through the local park , he asked himself two hard questions:
What’s your life been about so far?
What’s it going to be about from now on?
Both questions were accompanied by a regret on looking back, and vagueness looking forward. And so just three weeks later, he permanently ended his lapsed status and went back to church, this time to the nearby parish .
What he has learned about growing old: Try as we might, most of us cannot avoid taking stock of our long-lived lives. We reflect on who we’ve been over the course of many decades: in our relationships, our work, and in the various communities that we both served and were served by.
Once back on his knees in church, for the first time, he realized how much he really needed a faith community, how lonely he had felt over all those lapsed years without it. As if on his own he could be a more loving, patient, generous and forgiving person. As if on his own he could heal his own troubles and distresses, the innumerable losses and confusions.
More fundamentally, he just did not want to be in charge of his life anymore, at least not solely in charge, especially of what’s left of it. Time to lay that burden down — or at least begin to share it. Or resume sharing it, as he had begun doing in that first faith community eight years earlier. This time, he needed to go even bigger, to reach beyond the welcoming embrace of the community and seek out the Source that inspires, guides and gives members their enduring values. He went looking for Jesus.
Fr Eamon Raftery C.M.