To begin with the Gospel reading was from Mark. Our priest enjoys reading Mark; he's told us so. He finds it really exciting and dramatic. Sometimes he gets really carried away, throwing his hands about and doing the different "voices" and so on. Well, this morning's reading was right up his street. Jesus is teaching in his local synagogue, and then:
"In their synagogue just then there was a man possessed by an unclean spirit, and it shouted, 'What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are: the Holy One of God.' But Jesus said sharply, 'Be quiet! Come out of him!' And the unclean spirit threw the man into convulsions and with a loud cry went out of him".(Mk, 1:24 & 25)
As I say, our priest reads Mark very well and we all felt very moved, but the best was yet to come.
Apparently our priest had spent some of the previous night in one of the Rest Homes of the parish with an elderly lady who was dying. He told us about her. He reminded us of what a huge moment "dying" is and how moved he was to hear the old lady trying to follow the prayers he was saying. He felt privileged to have a role to play in keeping the devil out of things in the last hours of the old lady's life. "I felt a bit like Jesus in that synagogue just now", he said. "I'm sure that the teaching and example of that old lady's parents and teachers long ago, kicked in at the sound of the prayers I was saying and saw her safely home". [She did die a few hours later]
Yes, of course we were all moved, wouldn't you be? But wait, there's something else. He then took up the Sunday Newsletter and went through all the usual "who does what" and what's on the agenda this week. We know most of it by heart, but somehow this time it sounded better, especially when he said that all these small things helped to make us a parish and made us able to help others at the really BIG moments of their lives. Not a sound in the house, you might say. but wait, the best was yet to come.
Just before our priest gave the blessing, a young lady went up to the microphone dragging a sheepish-looking young man behind her. This is what she said to us.
"Most of you will remember me. I became a Catholic in this church two years ago. Just what that means really struck me during Father's words today. I owe a great deal to Father for helping me, but I owe even more to you all for being such a nice congregation and supporting me all that time".
"I am getting married to James on Valentines' day and of course our priest is doing it for us. When we get back from our honeymoon in Morocco we're going to throw a party after morning Mass just to say thanks to you." Cheers rang out all over the place, but the best was yet to come.
As we all pushed about at the end of Mass, this man said to our priest, "your sermon was quite good this morning, but that young lady really did it for me. When she said that we had all helped her into the faith, I felt as if I too had a hand in driving the devil out, just like in the Gospel."
He was probably right too, which makes that the best bit.