In today’s second reading St Paul celebrates the fact that God’s grace, which flows to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, is greater and more powerful than every expression of human sin and experience of death. And we celebrate that divine grace that is communicated to us through the sacraments. Ministering as a hospital chaplain for the past six years, I’ve come to increasingly appreciate the efficacy of the sacraments as we face difficulties of life and our broken human condition – whether we are a baby with only hours to live, a young person struggling with schizophrenia or an elderly person in the autumn of life.
I remember sharing the Blessed Sacrament with a man crippled by dementia who had grown up in a devout family and had been a choir boy in his youth. As he drew to the end of his life, the dementia meant that he struggled to comprehend where he was, who others were, and he couldn’t recall his memories of the life that he’d lived.
On one of my last visits to him before he died, the light of Christ seemed to penetrate the fog of his dementia. On receiving the Blessed Sacrament tears rolled down his drawn cheeks and he spontaneously began singing the ancient Eucharistic hymn ‘Let all mortal flesh keep silence.’ I sat in wonder as he worshiped God, then he turned to me and said ‘Thank you for making me feel human again.’
It wasn’t me who had made him feel human again – it was his encounter with our Lord, the Great Physician and the divine grace received through the holy sacrament. However, his words expressed the truth that our humanity is indeed only fully restored through receiving God’s grace and in responding to Him in worship. Just as the sacraments are central to the Church’s ministry to the sick, so they need to be central to our lives as we allow God to recreate us in the likeness of His Son.
It has been nearly two years since I left my ministry in the Anglican Communion and was received into the Catholic Church. Why did I leave the Protestant tradition? It was to draw closer to our Lord through the sacraments, teaching and fellowship entrusted to the Catholic Church. As we receive God’s grace this week through the sacraments of the Church, may our response be one of worship and in obedience to his will may he become more fully human.
Peter Davies, Chaplain at UHW