Being the presence of God to others

December 27, 2012

dowd_columnAt the moment, the most viewed and emailed article at the New York Times website is a Maureen Dowd column, “Why, God?” guest-written by a friend, a Catholic priest named Kevin O’Neil. Props to Dowd for featuring such an appropriately Christian subject for a column at Christmastime!

I like having the “right” answers—I even become sinfully proud, at times, of having the right answers. So take it from me: Father Kevin gets it exactly right when he says that, when it comes to comforting people who are suffering, we don’t have to have the right answers, or the right words. What we need, instead, is to be there for them, which doesn’t require a seminary degree, pastoral training, or expert knowledge of the Bible. Anyone can do it. As he writes:

When my younger brother, Brian, died suddenly at 44 years old, I was asking “Why?” and I experienced family and friends as unconditional love in the flesh. They couldn’t explain why he died. Even if they could, it wouldn’t have brought him back. Yet the many ways that people reached out to me let me know that I was not alone. They really were the presence of God to me. They held me up to preach at Brian’s funeral. They consoled me as I tried to comfort others. Suffering isolates us. Loving presence brings us back, makes us belong.

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