(Names have been changed for privacy.)
“She probably won’t even know you’re there, or at least won’t acknowledge you,” the nurse said flatly.
I had come bearing my Holy Communion bag from St. John’s containing the elements, some tiny cups, hand sanitizer, and written instructions (whew!)—and my nervous gut was right there with me. Sure, the elements of bread and wine (wafers and juice) may have been blessed previously, but I felt completely out of my element! Wandering the halls of the nursing home, where folks were napping or moaning or staring into space, made me feel wholly unprepared for anything remotely holy.
I had never met Doris before, but the nurse threw wet blankets on any fire of hope that she might have joy in sharing the sacrament of communion—let alone show any recognition of my presence!
I found Doris lying in a reclining wheelchair in a common area, said hello, and introduced myself. No response. A fleeting thought said—OK, you tried, and the nurse was obviously right. It’s not going to work, so go on to the next person on your list. I’m a stubborn sort, so I pulled up a chair hoping to prove that nurse wrong.
I continued to explain why I was there and asked if she would like to take communion. Nothing.
Finally, in resignation blended with a wilted hope that some awareness was in those blank eyes, I asked her if she would like me to pray with her. Nothing.
I gently took her hand and began praying out loud, using her name, and thanking God for her and whatever else came to my heart that moment.
In Jesus’ name. Amen.
At that moment, she turned to me with sparkly eyes and said, “Thank you. That was so nice.”
I talked with her a bit more, but she returned to her dazed and confused appearance, and never responded to questions or anything else I said.
Communion as we know it in the church is the service of Christian worship at which bread and “wine” are consecrated and shared. We sit at the table with the Lord Jesus and partake in oneness with him.
But communion also means the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level. That is the communion the Holy Spirit facilitated in that moment with Doris. I fully felt the presence of Jesus. It was a God thing.
We are expected to share our faith and tell nonbelievers how Jesus Christ has changed our lives. No matter what our maturity level in our Christian walk, we all have something to offer. Too often, we believe the devil’s lie that we don't really know enough or haven't been a Christian long enough to make a difference (or, in my case, the negative thoughts of “abandon ship and leave Doris, because this is not going to work.”). Not true! By pushing those thoughts away, I got to experience the awesome presence of God. I may stumble over Bible verses or even the "accepted" way of saying things, but I have experienced (and continue to experience) the love of the living God, and that is exactly what each of us is called to share.
“Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am with them.”— Matthew 18:20
May you be blessed with his presence this advent!