The house feels empty this evening and the High Street is strangely silent. Quiet too is the space down by the Cage at the seafront. Quiet and unusually dark. An enveloping darkness that is almost comforting.

There’s a gift in the silence, the darkness, the emptiness. An opportunity.

The Gospel of the Talents last Sunday is a reminder of what God has given us to live fulfilled lives in this world and to prepare us for Eternal Life in Heaven. It is stated very simply that if we accept, co-operate with, and develop the gifts of God then we will find our way into Heaven, whereas if we reject or neglect God’s gifts then we may well find ourselves left outside. It’s a sobering thought.

We tend to think of talents in terms of the things we are able to do such as art, music, sport, crafting, writing and while all of these give expression to who we are, the gifts of God go much deeper.

The greatest gift that God has given us is the person of Jesus Himself and it is clear that to reject Him, to not co-operate with Him is to reject Life itself. To be faithful to Him is to find Life. “You have been faithful…come and join in your master’s happiness.”

Together with Jesus the most precious gifts given to us are the people in our lives – family, friends, companions, strangers.  And in the mystery of this life come experiences that we would not choose and these too form part of the gift in that they call us to respond. How we treat these, our fidelity to them determines what will happen to us in Eternity.

This day last week I was called to St. Michael’s Hospice into the unspeakable pain of a family dealing with the approaching death of husband and father and it was there that I witnessed the kind of fidelity that inspires. Faithful in small things as well as in great. The faithfulness of loving hands.

I don’t know anything about Mark’s religious belief, but he seemed pleased that I was there, joining his hands together in a gesture of prayer when I placed my hand silently on his forehead. Faithful to the moment. Gazing lovingly on his children, on his wife, a gaze quietly returned. Hands reaching out to touch, to hold, to lift. And as I witnessed each gesture the voice of God kept repeating, saying of them “you have been faithful, you have been faithful.” When faithfulness demands more than anyone thinks they can give.

I thought of the perfect wife from Sunday’s first reading. “A perfect wife – who can find her?” I was looking at her. As perfect as one can be. Her hands enfolding his mid-air, tenderly, wordlessly. And words that were needed were spoken to encourage him to drink a little, eat something.

And then there was their faithfulness to the total silence that was needed so that he might sleep. “I am so tired” he said, “and I cannot sleep.” So, we persuaded him to let his head rest back on his pillow and close his eyes while we waited with him in a very long silence, grateful for the blessedness of a little rest for him.

“You have been faithful…” God was saying, each one of them hiding their anguish, their turmoil, in order not to burden him. Each one of them an indescribable inspiration to me.

After leaving St. Michael’s I went for a walk to clear my head and pray for them. On my way back I bumped into a parishioner on his evening run. He told me his little boy was in the hospital, so I went there to see him and his Mum.

This boy is very special to us and has been part of our prayer and our love ever since his birth in March of last year. He is an incredibly strong and happy child but on this evening he was in great distress, crying a thrashing about nonstop for an hour or so. A distress like none I have witnessed before. Such was the pain he was enduring, and he had no words to expresses it, only the cry. The cry of a child is the most honest of all prayers.

And there again I was inspired by his Mum who had no words, nothing that would take away his pain. But she held him faithfully, her strong and tired arms being the expression of the greatest and most helpless love, until he too was exhausted with crying and finally fell asleep. God was saying to his Mum, “you have shown yourself faithful…”

Our hands and our arms are sacred and God-like with a power for blessing in them that we don’t often realize. May God bless all our hands that we may always have the courage to use them well.