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Many of you have asked about my recent vacation, from which we returned a week ago. Marg and I went to Ecuador and Peru for 4 weeks, to visit friends and to tour around. We have a long connection with a family in Cuenca, Ecuador, having hosted all three children on exchanges over the past 12 years. It was a fabulous vacation, full of new experiences and great family time.

The experiences ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. The ridiculous involved me going into a store, using what I thought was my reasonably good Spanish to ask for a cellphone charger we could use in the car …… and being offered a single tea bag by the store clerk, who was sure tea was what I had asked for. It was chamomile – perhaps she sensed my tension.

The sublime happened at Mass in Cuenca cathedral. The cathedral is massive and the service was full with well over a thousand people present. I was very conscious of the barriers separating us from the other worshippers – language, culture, nationality, denomination. Height was another barrier – the couple next to us were Quechua, the indigenous people of the Andes, wearing their traditional clothing. They are typically very short and the woman next to me barely cleared my elbow.

We sat and listened through the mass, vaguely aware of where we were in the liturgy. Very aware of the barriers. Somewhat unexpectedly, we came to the Peace, and just as we do here, everyone turned to their neighbours to shake hands. We were greeted warmly by everyone, especially by the Quechua couple, whose nut-brown faces split open with huge smiles. Suddenly barriers were bridged and made irrelevant as we shared the Peace of Christ with one another. It was a moment of sheer grace.

Bridging barriers is so central to our ministries, as we seek to help people be reconciled, healed, restored, brought into new relationships. May we be faithful to our vocations to serve Jesus Christ in all people and be instruments of God’s grace in our world.