Eucharist and Reconciliation

With Fr Gerry ReynoldsWith Fr Gerry Reynolds

"The Mustard Seed" Feast of St Bernard August 20th 2008

I will begin by putting two pictures before you:

It's December 1st 1916 in Tamanrasset. The atmosphere there is charged with the emotions of violent ethnic conflict. Blessed Charles is under house arrest. His guard is a young Tuareg tribesman who later in the day will kill the Marabout. Why? Because he sees him as enemy - "one of them", not "one of us". The second picture is from Belfast where, ten years ago, this middle-aged Catholic woman came to see me and began to speak about her son. She told me how when he was a little boy she used to pray that he would never become caught up in the Troubles. Then as he grew into his teens she began to pray that he would never cause pain or heartbreak to anyone. He was being drawn towards the violent political struggle and she could not hold him back. But she was gradually led to pray that she might be the bereaved mother, rather than that her son would cause another mother to be bereaved. Then, through her tears, she sobbed "He was killed two months ago and my heart is broken. Did I pray right?" To pray right is fundamental to the ministry of reconciliation. For reconciliation is humanly impossible, but not impossible to God. Jesus, his beloved Lord and Brother, led Blessed Charles to pray right. Through his prayer he became with Jesus a saviour with Jesus of communion in our world. His Tuareg friend Moussa recognised this and wrote to Bro. Charles's sister: "Charles the Marabout died not only for all of you; he died for us too".

It was her faith in the Eucharist that enabled that Belfast mother to pray right at great cost. She too is a saviour with Jesus of communion in our world. The death of her son in the ethnic violence broke her heart. After nearly 20 years the heartbreak is as sharp as ever. The ministry of reconciliation costs not less than everything.

Celebrating the Eucharist with the Little Sisters in Labre Park, Dublin from 1973 to 1975 I was influenced by this prayer which they said together after Holy Communion:

Accept, Lord our Father, the offering of my life in union with the sacrifice of the Body and Blood of Jesus to the glory of your name.

As I make this offering, I ask you that all my brothers and sisters who are suffering from poverty and oppression may find true freedom in the justice and charity of Christ.

May all believers be united in the Faith.

And may we learn, Father, to respect one another of every race and temperament,

and may all nations, races and classes be united in the love of Jesus, our beloved Lord and Brother.

That prayer brought the people of Islam near to me and made me sense that they had gifts for me. It was in it that I first heard Jesus called "Beloved Lord and Brother". Blessed Charles was awakened to awareness of the mystery of God by the Moslem people of Morocco. Later at Beni Abbes and Tamanrasset he became their brother. They sought his advice and help. He taught them to pray - "to think of God and to love him".

In his last years among the Tuareg Moslems Brother Charles came to appreciate with deep gratitude how in God's providence he and they had become blessing to one another. They nursed him back to health from depression and death's door, bringing him precious goats' milk and barley bread. "He is one of us" they said. "One body, one spirit in Christ" - the fruit of the Eucharist.