"When Henry James, of all people, was saying good-bye once to his young nephew Billy, his brother William's son, he said something that the boy never forgot. And of all the labyrinthine and impenetrably subtle things that that most labyrinthine and impenetrable old romancer could have said, what he did say was this: 'There are three things that are important in human life. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. The third is to be kind.'

"Be kind because although kindness is not by a long shot the same thing as holiness, kindness is one of the doors that holiness enters the world through, enters us through — not just gently kind but sometimes fiercely kind.

"Be kind enough to yourselves not just to play it safe with your lives for your own sakes, but to spend at least part of your lives like drunken sailors — for God's sake, if you believe in God, for the world's sake, if you believe in the world — and thus to come alive truly.

"Be kind enough to others to listen, beneath all the words they speak, for that usually unspoken hunger for holiness that I believe is part of even the unlikeliest of us because by listening to it and cherishing it maybe we can help bring it to birth both in them and in ourselves.

"Be kind to this nation of ours by remembering that New Haven, New Hope, Shalom are the names not just of our oldest towns but of our holiest dreams, which most of the time are threatened by the madness of no enemy without as dangerously as they are threatened by our own madness within.

" 'You have tasted of the kindness of the Lord,' Peter wrote in his Letter, and ultimately that, of course, is the kindness, the holiness, the sainthood and sanity we are all of us called to. So that by God's grace we may 'grow up to salvation' at last.

"The way the light falls through the windows. The sounds our silence makes when we come together like this. The sense we have of each other's presence. The feeling in the air that one way or another we are all of us here to give each other our love, and to give God our love. This kind moment itself is a door that holiness enters through. May it enter you. May it enter me. To the world's saving."