‘Think of the love that the Father has lavished upon us, by letting us be called God’s children, and that is what we are’ (1 John 3:1)
In this month of prayer for the dead, these words of St John call to mind the many funerals I’ve attended over the years, where they were often part of the readings. For me, contemplating the future with God of someone I love, they conjure up a wonderful sense of intimacy, of the person being embraced by God.
Perhaps it’s easier in a way, because at a funeral I become aware of so many whose lives were touched and, in some way, made holy by that person’s influence. I learn so much, that I wasn’t aware of before — even when it’s someone I thought I knew very well. It isn’t difficult to see that person as a true child of God, who will be carried through to new life, held in the arms of God.
But although I’m so familiar with the idea that we’re all children of God, I often wonder whether I really believe it of myself — in my heart, so to speak, not just in theory. I don’t think this is because of a strong sense of sinfulness. Again, though I recognise this, I don’t know that I feel it as strongly as people seem to have done in past centuries. Perhaps it’s more the apparent ordinariness of life, from day to day. I just don’t feel particularly holy, most of the time!
I say ‘apparent ordinariness’, because in reality there is nothing ordinary about it. I should remember that each person I meet is a mystery, that (as I found so often at funerals) there is so much about him or her that I don’t see or even imagine. There is the amazing mystery of children growing up and discovering things for the first time. Husbands and wives can still discover new depths in each other, after many years.
In my prayer, I have the opportunity to allow God to show me something of the mystery that is myself. He sees possibilities in me, which I don’t even suspect. He has told me that I am his child, do I have the faith to really believe it?
Reflection by Bishop Paul Hendricks (Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark)