Monday, 29 June 2009

The confirmation of faith

Here's the photo I didn't manage to take after last week's Confirmation. The Vicar of St. Cuthbert's, Benfieldside with Frank Barnes and Dorothy Dover, both newly-confirmed by the Rt. Revd. Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham.

In the Rite of Confirmation, the individual Christian affirms his or her faith, and the Bishop confirms it in prayer with Christ's people. So the individual and the corporate come together. I believe, but as part of a greater whole.

Sunday's Gospel reading took us to the example of faith we find in the woman who pressed through the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus' cloak and to find healing - and the challenge to faith we find in the death of Jairus's daughter. I preached on them, and you can find the homily here. I found it worth quoting from the challenge to faith which the late Cardinal Basil Hume found in his enounter with starvation in Ethiopia - and with one individual in particular. They're his words, reproduced in the week's issue of "The Tablet:"

“This small boy came up to me and gripped my hand. With his other hand he pointed to his mouth. That was his way of telling me he was very hungry. I said to the interpreter: ‘Tell the little boy that I’ve come here to go home and make certain that food is sent to him.’ He went on doing this, but he also got hold of my hand and rubbed it against his cheek. I couldn’t understand that, but for the whole hour I was in that camp that little boy wouldn’t let go of my hand, and from time to time rubbed it on his cheek. He was very, very hungry … I remember speaking with that boy and asking him through the interpreter: ‘Why are you looking so sad?’ and he answered very simply in his own language: ‘I am hungry.’ I could see in that face the suffering Christ, and I realised just what a terrible scourge physical hunger is. But also there was an echo from the Cross which Our Lord spoke when he said: ‘I thirst’, and how he thirsts for us and wants us… Then, when the visit was ended and I had to go elsewhere, the little boy stood – I can see him now – feet astride, his hands on his waist, and looked at me almost with reproach. I could see in his face, ‘Why are you leaving me behind?’ I felt awful because there was no way I could take that little boy and bring him back to England.

“I realised that when you’re lost and are very hungry, and you are abandoned, you have a craving for two things: for food and for drink and for love … It was the next day when I was celebrating Mass that I understood as I’ve never understood before, the secret of Holy Communion. Our Lord, realising how much we need love, how much we need to be fed by him, had this marvellous way of doing it: by giving himself to us. When I visited Ethiopia … I saw clearly how when people are abandoned and dying of hunger they crave for love and for life … I have never forgotten that incident and to this day wonder whether that child is still alive. I remember when I boarded the helicopter he stood and looked reproachfully. An abandoned, starving 10-year-old child … A little boy who taught me in a wonderful way something very important about going to Holy Communion. I have often wondered since what happened to him.”

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