Give, and it will be given to you.
Although many years have passed, I remember this story as if it happened yesterday. I was scheduled to preside at the first Mass of the day in the parish. In the sacristy there was a note, letting me know that a parishioner who would be attending the Mass was a grandmother who had just received the news of a terminal diagnosis. My heart sank in sorrow. The note went on to explain that the intention for the Mass was the woman’s daughter and grandson who, just a few days earlier, had died in a car accident. My heart sank until it felt there was no place further for it to sink. A small piece of paper can hold an awful amount of sorrow.
Every instinct told me I had to find the woman and express my condolences before starting the Mass. I left the sacristy and went into the church. A parishioner approached and explained where the grandmother was sitting. We said a prayer together as I held her trembling hand. During the Mass I referred to the sadness of the accident and, as a community of faith, we prayed for those who had died and for the consolation of all who mourned their passing. After the Mass I returned once again to be with the grandmother. I watched as the parishioners flocked around her. They were her neighbours and friends. It was a gathering of a people united in love and sorrow. It was a shining example of what Church is. The gathering was tactile, gentle, and extraordinarily powerful.
And so, when Jesus talks about giving and receiving in today’s Gospel, he speaks of abundance and blessing. He speaks about a way of understanding the world that is life-giving and humble. I think of the joys and sorrows of that grandmother. I think especially of her trembling hand and her full cup of sorrow. I also think of her neighbours, gentle guardians of a woman in grief.
As the years pass, I think of that story often. The late Irish writer, John Moriarty, in his book “Dreamtime” talks about “A Christianity that can watch with Jesus in Gethsemane, that watches with him in Golgotha”. He then asserts “that Christianity can watch with anyone, whatever his or her chalice might be, or whatever his or her cup of trembling might be”.
And so, I pray for all whose cup of sorrow and trembling is overflowing. I pray they have people who will watch with them in their distress. I pray for three generations of that one family. Eternal rest grant onto them, O Lord. May they rest in peace. Amen