We are getting ready for Pentecost. This feast is not so much the ‘coming’ of the Holy Spirit as the celebration of the fact that God, the Holy Spirit, is already with us; this is because he first came, at Pentecost, to those apostles and disciples in the ‘Upper Room’. He has remained with us ever since.

At celebrations in Church, be they weddings, baptisms or funerals, people often sing “Make me a channel of Your Peace”.  

St. Francis of Assisi was the inspiration behind this lovely hymn; it contains the wonderful words: ‘… it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, in giving that we receive, and in dying that we gain eternal life’. These phrases echo the Gospel with the words of Jesus: “… unless the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain, but if it dies it bears much fruit” (John 12: 24); “For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 16: 25), “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven”. (Luke 6: 37). 

If one gives of self, one is already dying to selfishness that is inherent in each person; moreover, in return, one receives – receives a great deal more. Sometimes, perhaps, it may feel as though it is NOT worth giving of self; many first ask the question: “Why should I be a ‘doormat’ for others to wipe their feet on?” No! It ought not to be like that – and if it is – then talk about it, to someone who is an integrated and happy person, one who can advise. Above all, it isn’t for the receiving that a person does the dying to self: it is simply the consequence of the love – given freely – without thought of, or asking for, anything in return. Having made these points, it is wise for a person to take good care of him or herself, so as not to give so much that they neglect themselves and damage their future power to give. A holiday can be an act of love for others, if it recreates in them their power to give.

Very recently, I have experienced the great joy of being able to give my time to Fr. Ambrose, a sick brother and good friend, who is very ill, and may well be making the last part of his particular ‘holy journey’. This gifted experience entailed losing a lot of sleep to stay up with him, as he was so very ill, and I found this tiring. However, during the night – on two occasions, for four hours in total – it was a special blessing to feel close to those who we have been thinking about – praying to – to support Fr. Ambrose in his sickness. One such is Blessed John Paul II, recently beatified. He was the instigator of the ‘Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary’, and praying those decades, that night, in the sleeping company of Father Ambrose, somehow made Pope John Paul II seem much closer to me. It was as though he was in the room with me, and I was talking to him. What a gift that was, and with it, an enduring reassurance that all will be well, even though I will miss Ambrose, greatly, when he passes from this world to the next. But, apart from all that, it is very wonderful to witness his serenity and happiness as he approaches his meeting with the Lord. This serenity is just another joyful gift of God, among so many we receive each day – if we are receptive to them. 

Perhaps, I may add a further example? A difficult task was given to me in these recent days; this was to tell a 95 years old lady that her son was very seriously ill. In my mind, at the time of the conversation, I thought that he may never come out of hospital again; subsequently, that proved to be wrong. However, the decision to go and tackle this difficult task, getting help from others, who know both mother and son, proved to be a moment of great comfort and joy. I thought it best to pass on the sad news, in the context of giving Holy Communion to this devout, and good Catholic mother. She was very pleased to receive Jesus in Communion, and, with the support of my two caring lady companions, both of whom knew her well, she was able to face her tragic situation with surprising calmness. In fact, she said: “You had a hard task, coming to tell me this news; thank you, very much. Nothing will take away the togetherness we have, because of what you have done!” I felt so grateful, for such wisdom, from a simple and beautiful lady, coming to terms with an illness of a son who is the ‘light’ of her life. It was another very special and joyful gift of the Holy Spirit. 

We talk a lot about God being Love: it is perfectly true, but Love always involves more than one. Essentially, it indicates a relationship. Only in a relationship can we find the true meaning and goodness of life – in that relationship with God – in that relationship with others. These are the real gifts that God wants to give, when you, and I, first respond to Him by beginning to trust in Him, by knowing, loving and serving Him, in all my particular circumstances of life. These gifts are God’s reply to our initial and continuing response to Him, the effect of the relationship. When we fail to give of self, stay locked-in to our self-centred ego, we will never receive any of these gifts – gifts that He longs to pour out on us. 

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