During the Covid emergency it’s wonderful to see how well parishioners cope. Some are medics and nurses on the frontline, keeping us up to date with the challenges to hospital staff and the admirable way personnel have looked after patients and each other in a spirit of real solidarity. They combine friendliness with candour. I can speak from personal experience having been allotted a slot for minor cancer treatment and enjoying the care of a chatty, upbeat team in the Lagan Valley Hospital.  All during the operation they kept up a lively conversation with me, talking about gardening, the delight they felt when famous personalities spoke well of their work and about the challenges of religious educators today. Afterwards on my way back from theatre the rather severe auxiliary remarked, ‘those ones never keep quiet. It was to keep you distracted from the cuts of the scalpel.” And here was I thinking I was witty and charming. She told me that the theatre staff were merely being professional in keeping the patient amused. It occurred to me, wasn’t that their way of showing love?

 

I’m glad when National Health Servants have a smile for everyone whether out of duty or human kindness.  Lately one of our congregation had a positive Covid reading and because he had attended Mass within a forty-eight-hour period from detection a PHA doctor asked probing questions:  In your Church do you socially distance?  Yes.

 

Is there stewarding?  Yes.  Do you cleanse the Church regularly?  Yes.

 

Well done, good and faithful servant! The scriptural quotation gave me hope amidst depressing bulletins about growing infections and selfishness.  Thanks be to God that the gospel of peace on earth which surrounds Jesus the new-born Saviour makes people like her so positive. Stay healthy and keep others healthy was her message.

 

She might have joined in the gardening conversation with approval!  At this season gardening is an exercise in hopefulness.  It is a time to tidy, to tend to bulbs which will bloom months ahead, to mulch the leaves, the grass and kitchen refuse for future use, to build refuges for birds, to listen to the earth and to care for it and to pray for responsible attention to the whole environment.  Nature waits for a Spring flowering; we anticipate a spiritual renewal this Christmastide. May God grant us all our fondest hopes, friendliness, positivity, an occasional dose of honesty about competence being more important than chattiness, health in mind, body and soul, life in Christ which brings the prospect of joy and peace.