Monday of the 30th Week in Ordinary Time
Novena to St. Jude – October 24, 2022
Ephesians 4:32-5:8; Luke 13:10-17
Thirty-two years ago, when I was a “young” priest, I had been sent to pursue graduate studies in Canon Law at Saint Paul’s University in Ottawa, Canada. During the summer between my first and second years of study while I was working on my thesis, I covered a parish in the Diocese of Gander, Newfoundland, for a few weeks. The parish was in a tiny village called Norris Arm, situated on an inlet of the North Atlantic Ocean, about fifty miles away from anything, but moose and bear!
One Friday morning, a man in the parish approached me after Mass and asked if I would bring Holy Communion to his mother who was homebound. I agreed to so and made plans to visit her the following day after the Saturday evening Vigil Mass.
As I approached the house, it was quite apparent that the woman lived very simply and was likely quite poor. I knocked on the door, which was ajar, and called out, “It’s Father Bambera from the church. May I come in?” The woman, whose name was Mary, was seated at the table in her kitchen, which was neat and clean but quite obviously rather empty. She promptly told me that I never had to knock or ask for permission to enter her house. “You’re bringing the Lord, Father, and the Lord and his servant are always welcome!”
Mary then quickly bowed her head and went silent as she prepared to receive Holy Communion.
After Mary received the Eucharist, she was willing to engage me in conversation. She asked about my studies, my family and why I would want to travel to a remote place like Norris Arm. Then she quickly shifted her focus on how she might provide hospitality to me in return for what I had done for her.
Mary carefully got up from her chair, walked slowly to her refrigerator and took out a dish that was covered with plastic wrap. She brought the dish back to the table and placed it in front of me. It was a small, very well done piece of steak that quite obviously had been cooked sometime before my visit. “Father, yesterday, my son brought me dinner and knowing that you were coming today, I cut in half the piece of meat that he brought so that I could share it with you. Please, try it. It was very good.” Recognizing the woman’s poverty, I made some excuse not to eat what she placed before me so that she might have another meal herself. But she quickly responded, “Please. Take it. It would make me so happy.”
And I did! … And in that meager meal and simple exchange, I was touched far more than I could have ever believed possible. …
Recall the words from Saint Paul’s letter to the Ephesians proclaimed a few moments ago. “Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. Be imitators of God, as his beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us. … Be thankful. … Live as children of light.”
Whether she realized it or not, Mary understood St. Paul’s challenge. She had come to know Jesus in her heart and was confident in her faith. She mirrored in many respects the suffering woman in today’s gospel who wasn’t bitter because of her plight but who simply trusted so much in the healing power of Jesus’ touch that she boldly went forth glorifying God for his merciful presence throughout her life.
Some might have faulted Mary for serving a half-eaten meal to a guest, when all she wanted to do was to show her gratitude in some tangible way for the gift of the Eucharist that I was privileged to share with her. But she would have been in good company. Recall the criticisms of the self-righteous leader of the synagogue who condemned Jesus for healing a suffering soul on the Sabbath.
For me, even after all the years that have passed, that encounter remains as one of those grace filled moments in which I felt the presence of God flowing from Mary, one of his most faithful followers – teaching me, a relatively young priest, where to look in order to find God.
Brothers and sisters, I hope and pray that during these sacred days you have come to a deeper understanding of where to look in order to find God. He is here – speaking to us words of encouragement from the sacred scriptures – feeding us with his body and blood in the Eucharist – and touching our lives through the hands and hearts of one another in whom he is present.
As these days continue to unfold in our lives, some of us will experience God’s tender care through prayers that are answered. But all of us will encounter the Lord Jesus who promises to touch our spirits and give us peace.