In the prefabs behind the doctor's surgery where we lived there was a woman called Violet. Life had not been easy for her. Struck down with polio when she was 21, she lived the rest of her long life walking on two sticks, her legs encased in callipers. Yet she allowed her suffering and pain to teach her about compassion, love, acceptance and understanding. This taught her what real humanity was about. There was within her an ability to accept, to love and to cherish and those who met her discovered that.
She was 87 when she died and just the day before she died, I took my six-year-old niece to see her. Cathy scrambled on to her lap and said: "'Stebby', tell me a story." Violet began to tell the story of the toy rabbit who wanted to know what it meant to be real. As she told the story I realised that I was looking at someone very real, very human and very holy.
I think for too long our pursuit of what we see as holiness has, for many, stopped us becoming fully rounded human beings. Holiness has been misunderstood as an invitation to be pious and prudish and often miserable rather than a gateway into life. I don’t want to be holy if holiness means condescension and condemnation towards and of others. I don’t want to be holy if it means looking over my shoulder for a God who is waiting to trip me up. I don’t want the sort of holiness that sees life as an endurance test to go through in order to experience heaven.
The Gospel for me is primarily God’s way of enabling me to understand what it means to be alive. We are to live in the present moment understanding what it means to be intimately involved with God and with our brothers and sisters, living lives of love and service.
What is it that you have to let go of in order to live life? What is it you need to bring to the Lord to understand a little more fully what it means to be human and alive? What is your security? What is your bondage? What is your pain? In a sense the Lord is saying to each of us 'Let it go' – and begin to live.