The Friday Thought - Caring for others without counting the cost

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I was out in Ardmore cemetery last week to bless water which was to be used on Sunday for the blessing of the graves during our annual service for the intercession of our deceased relatives, friends and neighbours.

As I got out of the car I was greeted with the familiar sight of rain. All around the graveyard people sheltered under umbrellas and rain coats as they made last minutes preparations to the graves of their loved ones. Last year the weather was terrible with torrential for the blessing of the graves. By the time the ceremony was finished I was drenched, I’m still convinced I got soaked so much I must have shrunk.

No matter what Sunday is chosen for any particular event there are always going to be clashes with other occasions. This was brought into sharp focus as I walked about the graveyard and met people tidying their family graves.

After the usual banter involved in local greetings I was asked was I aware that Ireland were playing at 7.45pm on Sunday. I told them not to worry there should be plenty of time to allow for everyone to return home and get themselves psyched up for the big match. Certainly there seems to be a lot of excitement generated by the European Championships.

This is the first occasion since 1988 that Ireland has qualified for the finals of the competition and the Irish team will be backed by thousands of supporters who will have turned Poland into a home away from home. Caught up in the excitement I entered draw for the competition and I managed to get lumbered with Denmark so there’s not much chance of me winning my money back.With all the celebrations associated with the Euros and the arrival of the Olympic flame there is one certain event which seems to have been overshadowed. This week Ireland hosts the 50th International Eucharistic Congress. As an event it celebrates the great gift which Christ left his Church, namely the gift of himself. The Eucharist is at the heart of the life of the Church. We receive the gift of the body of Christ to become the body of Christ. Jesus creates a blood bond between us which unites us as one family under God. We are his people and he promises to be our God and Father. Jesus came among us to bring the life of God into the everyday reality of our world. God has come close and through our celebration of the Eucharist he remains very much a part of our lives. The Christian community remains alive and active when it comes together to remember the sacred meal which Jesus asked us to commemorate. As a community we are united and shaped by the love which Jesus shows on the cross.

Jesus surrendered everything to his Father; he held nothing back, offering his very life in complete love and obedience. This is the true nature of sacrifice according to St Augustine, when we surrender something of ourselves out of love, even though it is painful to give away what is most personal and valuable. Reflecting on these words Ron Rolheiser explains how this painful surrender stretches our hearts and opens our lives up to communion with God and communion with one another. At the heart of our celebration of the Eucharist is sharing in Christ’s loving example of being able to open up our own lives to lives of one another. God shares his life with his children so we as brothers and sisters can be moulded into his image and granted the strength to bear with one another, care for one another without counting the cost. Jesus invites everyone to come together as his family, sharing in the meal which breaks down all boundaries and uniting all people in the one great sacrifice which opens up the possibility of life eternal.