It is interesting that on this Sunday before Thanksgiving the Psalm happens to speak to us of death and dying ...certainly not a subject that wold be welcomed at a family festivity and perhaps not a subject you would choose for a homily.
And yet, it is in a spirit of joy that the psalmist cries out to us, "In the Lord's own house shall I dwell for ever and ever!"
What a comforting thought! What a great reason to be thankful ...to be a thanksgiving people ...a truly Eucharistic people.
Throughout our natural lives and onward into the valley of darkness from which we emerge into eternal life, God is with us. Not for a single moment are we left alone. Thank you Lord ...thank you!
And yet, even in God's embrace, those who are close to death often feel alone. They are able to sense that their family and friends are uneasy. They are seen to be caring, yet, somehow remote.
Nothing is more natural than death, and yet we prefer to ignore it, even to the point of denying it.
How often have I been told by family members not to let on to the patient that he or she is dying, only to have the patient beg me to keep it a secret from the family?
The tragedy is that the patient is probably experiencing the worst kind of solitude, a solitude born of not feeling free or able to speak frankly of his or her own imminent death.
Breaking through this logjam usually lets loose a flood of heart breaking but healthy emotion that, in turn, leads to a new comfort level for all concerned.
To a comfort level characterized by that emotional, intellectual and tactile intimacy for which the dying person has been silently yearning.
That intimacy is Jesus functioning in and through us. There is a world of difference between just sitting silently beside a very sick person and doing so while holding their hand.
God is always present but He expects us to be the tangible extensions of His holy presence. Sometimes there is no substitute for the touch of a hand.
As a priest, I see this in that unique touch that comes with Holy Anointing, but I also see it in that gentle touch between two people who love each other.
There is no substitute for being touched ...not being "handled" but being touched.
Touching is a form of prayer. It is the instrument of a reassuring Divine presence that envelops our bodies and souls.
Touching is a sharing in a mystery that we do not understand but of which we are, none the less, fundamental parts and thus called upon to live in faith.
Touching is intimately connected to that experience of deep inner trust that is rooted our belief in eternal life.
"The Lord is my shepherd ...in the Lord's own house shall I dwell for ever and ever." Thank you Lord! Thank you!