holding hands

Photo by jardek at Flickr.com

Acts 14:21-27; Revelation 21:1-5; John 13:31-35

I went by to visit Dorothy Armbruster this week.  She greatly misses being with us on Saturday evening, just as we miss her.  But make no mistake: the woman has not lost her sense of humor.  I explained to Dorothy when I arrived that I rushed out to see her, forgetting my bionic ears (hearing aids).  I concluded by saying, “I’m totally useless.”  She said, “I’m glad you finally recognized that!”

While I know that Dorothy was kidding lovingly, I did end up pondering those words later when I was meditating.  In a certain sense I am, and each of us is, useless.  My ego doesn’t make the big difference it would like to think it does.  My little list of “to dos” that I operate off of each day will not bring the world to a screeching halt if left undone.  That led me to think about this: if it’s not primarily about accomplishing tasks (and of course they ARE important on some level), what is most important?  Our greatest gift and responsibility is to be wide awake and appreciative for the life that is teaming around us.  A religious term for this is “worship.”  I respond with gratitude and love for the Awesomeness that is right in front of me revealing Herself.  This connectivity between persons, which begins here and ends here in this divine encounter, is what life is all about at its core.  Nothing is more important.  When it is carried over into our life with other human persons, life loses its insipidness and becomes awesome as well.

“Being There” Is a Gift
A friend of mine, Jeff, invited another friend, Ed, to an important event in Jeff’s life (which I was unable to attend).  When Jeff was expressing his appreciation to Ed for showing up, Jeff said, “This thing lasted three hours and perhaps wasn’t particularly engaging; I am kind of undone that you came and sat through the whole thing.”  Ed said, “I grew up poor.  We didn’t really have much to offer each other except our presence; and that was always a good gift.”  Being there is a precious gift indeed.

When Being There is Especially Important

There was a story this week about a young man who was in a horrible auto accident, which broke every bone in his face and left him blind.  While he was being treated in ICU, a nurse squeezed his hand and kept repeating, “I am here.”  They had never met.  He did not know her name.  He was barely conscious.  But it meant everything to him that someone was holding his hand, he would later tell, and saying, “I am here.”   This young man  survived the accident, received a Master’s degree in Narrative Medicine, and has spent his adult life lecturing to health professionals about the importance of human touch and presence.  Sometimes being there is very important.

When Being There Opens Up A Whole New Creation
I was visiting Michelle Smith’s sister, Carolyn, this week at St. Alexis Hospital down on South Broadway.  This is the hospital where a famous exorcism was performed in 1949, which later became the basis for the movie, The Exorcist.  They have a kind of “history wall” at the entrance to the hospital, and it has a very small portion dedicated to that exorcism.  There’s a letter there from the Jesuit priest, Fr. Bowdern, who performed the exorcism, thanking the Alexian Brothers for their “hospitality.”  This was no ordinary “bread and butter note.”  The letter thanked the brothers for their hospitality especially because NO ONE ELSE would offer hospitality to this suffering child; they were perhaps too afraid to take in “someone like that.”  Fr. Bowdern pointed out that the brothers had lived up to their oft proclaimed slogan that no one would be turned away from their care.  Wow.  So Fr. Bowdern and the Alexian Brothers in 1949 were walking the walk of being there for the most marginalized!  I noticed also that the most frequently used word in the letter was “boy” or “lad.”  It was clear that the whole experience for this priest was to be there for that boy.  He was focused on the boy who was ensnared, not the drama around his bondage.  Sometimes being there is the difference between a New Creation and the same old tired one.  The Lord says in our second reading tonight, “See, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)

We, Right Here, Right Now

Being there is a precious gift.  Sometimes it is very important.  Sometimes it opens up a New Creation.  (The boy went on to be an airline pilot.)  Make no mistake about it.  We are not totally useless!  But our greatest usefulness is to be there for each other.  It is a privilege to stand in each other’s presence.  And it is a wonderful when someone gives that gift to us.  But there is no more creative or life-giving gift than when we stand there among the most marginalized.  This is the meaning of tonight’s gospel: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John13:35)  Will we show up?

Homily by Frank Krebs
5th Sunday of Easter
Saturday, April 27, 2013
Sts. Clare & Francis