Recently, I attended the bedside of a dying man. He was not very cohesive. He was of Italian origin and knew me well.
He recognised me and I offered to pray with him, anoint him and give him Holy Communion. I spoke to him in Italian, the first language he had ever spoken. It was like as if he had been waiting for this. He was now very alert and fervidly joining in the prayers with me.
I found it a very special moment. I was ministered to by the experience as much as I had ministered to him.
Today I will be celebrating his funeral.
I have often been to assist with dying people over the last 43 years of ordination. I have seen so many times the sacrament of the church give so much consolation and peace at these very special moments.
I am convinced that many are waiting for that reassurance that they can peacefully let go. Being reminded that there is more to come, being reassured that God in Jesus has shown us that life continues into the fullness of life. That we will be reunited in love with those that have gone before us.
That is not the end, a bit like the birth where we move on to a fuller life, just like when we are born from the womb into a fuller life.
To be reminded by all of this is not just sentimentality, it is no fable, this is real.
The death and resurrection of Jesus did really happen. We share in that resurrection by the grace of god.
What happened to Jesus is also what happens to us.
People sometimes forget to bring the consolation of the sacraments to a dying person.
I was once again reminded what a difference it makes for those who are dying to be so comforted.
What a loving thing it is to do this for them. It brings peace not only to the dying person but to all those who love them.