Loving My Enemy

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your Father in heaven… If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:43-48

 By the age of eleven, and flanked by a couple of loyal companions, she was a force to be reckoned with. And if her stare didn’t send you in the other direction, then her insults most certainly would. As a newcomer into the school, I expected much of this and still I wondered just what I had done to incur such special attention. Indeed it seemed as if I was her sole mission, and in one afternoon I was.

Finding me relatively alone on the playground, she and her cohorts spied my backpack and started going through it. “Hey, that’s mine! You can’t do that!” , I shouted.
“Watch me!” she quipped.
Jumping off the swings and seizing my bag I began to walk away. Only to hear their footsteps behind me. As I turned, there she was ready to reassert her authority, pushing me swiftly to the ground.

Somewhere amidst the punches thrown and hair pulled I no longer was afraid.  The principal arrived just in time to see me stand on my feet and her friends run off. Of course both our parents were both called but only mine came that day. Well aware of the history of problems that this girl had been involved in, my mom was told that I was not in trouble and he was sorry to not have arrived sooner.

At first, I felt a sense of victory, no less a modern-day David and Goliath story. And then, over the proceeding weeks and months, when she was no longer bothering me, I was given a different perspective. I started noticing that for parent days, science fairs, and music performances, she was alone. Even her recess was spent trying to secure a spot atop the monkey bars for herself and perhaps a friend. From this vantage point she didn’t have to worry about fitting in.  And from here, she intentionally threw herself off – breaking her arm in a desperate cry for attention.

This was not a first for her, but it was a first for me to empathize and even pray for the one who I felt had persecuted me. With a reversal of fortune, and a helping of grace I saw not her persona but her as a person. A girl who, much like me, was created and loved by God but who had never had anyone express her value adequately. And as a defense, there were walls that seemed almost impenetrable.

Rather than confront or abut these walls, I instead prayed for her. Teachers I noticed too tried to help whenever possible. Until a year later, when she was suddenly absent. Over the years, I have wondered where she had gone and just who she would become. I hoped that she and her family had made a home. Moreover I prayed that the fresh start would allow her the freedom to shed the tough image she had portrayed for so long. Today, I am ever so grateful for this life altering perspective that has allowed me to not be so quick to judge what my eyes first perceive.

Reflect:

Is there someone who needs my forgiveness and prayers that I might instead be withholding? What might I see if I walked alongside my “enemy”?

Peace,

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Still a Catholic: Living Gluten Free

The following is a guest post by an incredibly bright, articulate, young Catholic girl named Emily Pruyn. What a privilege it has been to come to know and spend time with her this past year! 

To be a Catholic means to be a part of a community and a universal body of believers, united in Christ Jesus. Partaking of Holy Communion is essential to us as followers of Christ and doesn’t only remind us of His suffering but also shows us the amount of love Jesus has for us. Here, Jesus comes to us in a beautiful way in the Eucharist! This is a unique, personal, and intimate part of our lives and it should not be taken lightly. And for 19 years, I have been blessed to continue discovering a beautiful faith, and to be a part of a welcoming family of Catholics.

One of the biggest changes in my own life, however, affected my daily life in college and impacted how I practice my faith started in 2018.  Around February, I started having symptoms of what seemed to be acid reflux. My family has had a history of acid reflux so, I started taking medicine at night before bed which seemed to work for a while.  The sensation of “choking” continued to get worse and worse as the months passed till I could barely get through a meal without horrible coughing fits and terrible stomach pains.  So too after receiving the Eucharist at church every Sunday.

Through Children’s Hospital, they discovered that in addition to my earlier diagnosed asthma, I had Celiac Disease as well as a soy allergy. As they explained, even a crumb of gluten will severely damage my intestines and lead to serious health complications without adherence to a non-cross contamination gluten-free diet.  Yet, after diagnosis, little did I know how much my daily life would change and how it would interfere with the practice of my faith.  Because of the degree of my disease, I cannot tolerate gluten sensitive communion. Hearing this news hit me hard, because in one day that all of my earlier years just disappeared.  I struggled with wondering if God would be upset with me because I can’t orally receive communion.  My mother supported me and explained that God doesn’t want me to get hurt or sick when I receive either.  He knows this isn’t my fault or that I’m choosing not to receive communion to rebel or be ignorant.

As I continued to pray, I felt God encourage me to inquire about spiritual communion.  I conducted some research and learned that spiritual communion is “an ardent desire to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament and in lovingly embracing Him as if we had actually received Him” (St. Thomas Aquinas).  So, on that following Sunday I attended Mass at Curry and received spiritual communion for the first time.  I allowed the Word of God to reach deep in my spirit and I suddenly felt at peace and comforted!  After mass, my boyfriend Peter said to me, “Emmy, the one thing I adore about you is that during such hard times you keep that beautiful smile on your face.  Remember how special you are and how much God loves you!  God wants to include you, his child, in receiving Him – you just have to do it in a different way than others!”.

At Curry, I felt comfortable receiving spiritual communion because I wasn’t judged and no one asked me why I didn’t receive Eucharist in the traditional way. Yet, I was apprehensive about asking for spiritual communion and receiving it differently at home, especially where I have known my parish priest and deacon for a few years now.  Unfortunately, my concerns were valid as I received negative reactions both from my priest and parishioners. My pastor questioned if my faith had changed or if something happened during my first semester of college, instead of respecting me.  I had to explain my situation to him and then he went on to try and convince me to take the gluten sensitive Eucharist.  When I explained to my priest that I can’t receive the gluten sensitive Eucharist either he seemed only more frustrated with me.  I felt alone and rejected by my own church.  To make matters worse, I had some well- meaning parishioners say, “Welcome to St. Mary’s, are you thinking about joining the Catholic church?” or “Are you not a Catholic anymore?…I noticed you didn’t receive the Eucharist like you used to. Are you okay?”.  Hearing these statements made me feel badly and even slightly embarrassed about my situation.

Just recently, I attended church at home and asking for spiritual communion from a lay Eucharistic Minister was questioned once again. Explaining my situation to her she retorted, “Well what do you want me to do?” then blessing me, she walked away laughing in disbelief!  Both surprised and sad, I chose to pray for her instead that God may bless her with understanding and training.  I can understand why someone may ask me these questions because physically I appear to be a healthy, normal, young adult woman.  However, what people do not realize is that my ailments are inside my body not on the outside.  As they say, never judge a book by its cover!

The same goes for when someone requests spiritual communion. No matter how old or young someone is, if they politely ask to receive a blessing no one should be asked for the reason why.  Since Catholics are called to create a community of love as brothers and sisters and belong to a Christ-centered faith, shouldn’t gluten-free parishioners also be included, loved, and respected?  I am still, and forever will remain, a Catholic too.

Emily Pruyn
Curry College, School of Nursing, Class of 2022

 

The Grace of Vulnerability

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me..
for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

2 Cor. 12:9-10

What does it mean to be vulnerable? From its Latin root, this word has come to symbolize both a state of openness to physical and emotion wounding. We even often refer to the vulnerable as those that are in an undesired place with little to no defenses and in constant need to protection and assistance. So, the idea of grace as a potential gift or, better still, placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability may seem undesired and inconceivable. And yet, time and time again God asks us to do just that, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent. 

What does it mean to be vulnerable? From its Latin root, this word has come to symbolize both a state of openness to physical and emotion wounding. We even often refer to the vulnerable as those that are in an undesired place with little to no defenses and in constant need to protection and assistance. So, the idea of grace as a potential gift or, better still, placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability may seem undesired and inconceivable. And yet, time and time again God asks us to do just that, albeit perhaps to a lesser extent. 

 In seeking to minister to or care for others,  our willingness to become vulnerable can also be of tremendous value. For, listening with our hearts requires a letting go of pride and a seeking to meet one another eye to eye. Knowing that each of us is but one or two steps shy of finding ourselves in a similar circumstance. In this way, we begin to glimpse our commonality and walk with others in the challenges that this journey of life can bring. 

Recently, I sat down with a beautiful family who had just lost a loved one to suicide. As they spoke I heard and experienced the ache and yearning of their questioning souls to probe the reason why. Confusion, regret and intense longing to turn back time had consumed their thoughts and added a profound layer to their grief. This path I knew very well having lost my own brother to suicide 20 years ago. Should I become vulnerable and share, or merely listen and help them through the funeral planning process?

Sensing the Holy Spirit’s urging and guidance I realized that this was indeed a moment for vulnerability. And as I did, visibly their tension eased a bit, each leaned in and God’s grace filled the room. Rather than speaking in overwhelming detail, I touched on our sudden and shared experience of tragic loss. A rip in the fabric of family, suicide is a death considered socially and religiously unacceptable making the grieving all the more difficult. They needed to know, that day, that they were not alone.

Just how vulnerable should I be? 

While vulnerability can be an asset, there often is also a need for a few appropriate boundaries. Far from perfect, we know all too well what revealing our faults, fears, and difficulties can bring. Oversharing can be detrimental both to you and to those you feel led to help. Remember this isn’t about your need to share, as it is their potential need to be helped by what is being said. 

“I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power”

1 Cor. 2:4

And here, though an inner prayerful conversation, is where the Spirit should be given the lead. Though you may still initially wonder if the invitation to vulnerability was well spent, God’s promise is that you will know it by its fruits.  In God’s hands our weakness becomes strength and “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”  are often most fully revealed.  

Peace

On the Right Path

Don’t copy the behaviors and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think Then you will learn God’s will for you which is pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2

“Why is it that it seems when we try the hardest to do everything right that everything seems to go all wrong?”, he asked.  The question itself is a loaded one, and there isn’t an easy answer.  At its heart is an engagement of evil in the world and an assertion of righteousness. And yet, though not always privy to all the details, we can be assured that there is a multitude of underlying questions and situations present here.

In this case I was well aware of the back story.  Always the protagonist of a seemingly unending drama, choices past and present had become instrumental in determining the future.   Prior friends, and lifestyles had in fact become so constraining that the opportunity for change almost unthinkable and hope but a distant thought.

“All my hard work is just for nothing..I am beginning to wonder why I should even try.”

As a prayerful pause occupied my soul, I sought for a worthy response.

“Adam, It isn’t that you are being punished for choosing to do right here, but that life is a series of choices not just yours but that of others. The gift of free will affects not just our lives but all those around us and sets into motion consequences that may not be immediately recognizable. Doing the right thing is not simply one or two choices, but a daily decision to choose to walk in life and love. Especially when faced with disappointment and we are tempted to walk away that is when we need to recommit  and ask for help.”

This is what it means to walk and grow in virtue. As a child I enjoyed the simplicity of the proverbs. Do this and this happens, or in contrast don’t do that for it will bring about ruin. While there is profound truth here, these platitudes barely scratch the surface on the challenge of our human condition. We think that we would much rather have a detailed list of steps, a tailored prescription as it were on the right course in life and corrections where necessary. However, I wonder if that were available would we follow it or even understand it.

“I guess I get that, but I have nothing left. I am tired of the struggle, tired of working hard and having nothing to show for it. Not sure how much more I can give” After a brief discussion about concrete ways to practically approach his situation with work and finances,one thing became glaringly apparent. There was no room made in his life for anyone else but him.

“Adam, you mention all the things YOU have tried and relied upon, but do you realize you were never meant to do this alone? It isn’t all about what YOU can do but what Someone much greater than you can do. “

“Oh, you mean God..you know I haven’t gone to church. Not sure that will work for me.”, he answered. “Well, you say that you have tried everything and that you inevitably find yourself in the same predicament. That, you cannot do this on your own, and you are running out of steam. What needs to happen before you try something different? What have you got to loose?”, I posed. “Not sure…” he responded hesitantly. “Well, Adam I will be praying for you. I am always here if you need to talk.”

Lord these are the words you wish to speak to each one of us. Oh, how you wish for us to invite you into the messiness of our lives. The path we are on can be so difficult, and made even more so by our stubborn independence. Jesus help us to reach out to you for help, quiet our fears and guide us on the right path.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: A Slippery Slope

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She was a bit surprised to see him there..standing among his homeless companions of many years. For several months he had found sobriety along with an apartment and a day job, maintaining his distance from a number of his former friends. The last time we had seen him he had appeared healthy and in much better spirits thankful for the care and concern shown. Not today though. Today, he was visibly agitated and the closer she got the more she realized his sobriety was no more. Greeting everyone present, one by one she checked in with them and handing them coffee as they spoke.

“I need 5 dollars and if you really cared about me you’d give it to me”. “Jim”, said one of the other men “now you know she doesn’t give money. Leave her alone.” Yet, he persisted getting more belligerent each time he spoke, till finally he said. “You know what I need it for, and if I don’t have a drink soon I will die”.  Sadness, filled her heart at that moment. She had seen him at this point before and it had nearly taken his life. There was no such thing as one small drink, or a stopping point for “Jim” it was all consuming. He had fallen into his addiction again, and all of the old habits that befriend it.

As any conversation with an AA or NA member will tell you..sobriety is not a sprint but a lifelong cross country journey. A constant attraction towards your own destruction, with the deceptive lure of rationalization and self reliance there at the ready. Those family members and friends that stay the course are well accustomed to the roller coaster of pain, joy, success and failure that are present along the way.

Yet this is true, though perhaps to a lesser extent, of every battle with temptation, sin and desolation.  Do we recognize our own weaknesses and the slippery slope that we start down when we once again find ourselves facing our worst selves? Will we be pulled under, will we try to go it alone, or will we seek help?

Awareness and Accompaniment.

While each of us were made for more, we repeatedly find ourselves choosing less. Being aware of that which is lesser and our own inclinations to a particular temptation or sin is a good step towards being better prepared when we meet it again. Still, the beauty of our faith is that we are never alone in our journey towards God. Though sin usually carries with it guilt, shame, and insecurities- our faith bears mercy, love and hope.  Through reconciliation, and in community we find both strength and accompaniment, encountering not condemnation and an all loving and merciful Father. Only then are we truly able to accompany others- to offer love and mercy in the struggle, and compassion and hope where none were evident before.

“Lord, thank you for loving me- knowing all of my weaknesses and being there to catch me when I fall.  Help me to keep my eyes open to the pitfalls ahead, and my ears ready to hear your voice. Carry me through, Lord. And please I ask dear gracious Father, make my heart ready to respond to the needs of others.” 

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: A Church on the Margins

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Evangelization

is at the heart of the church- for to share the Gospel is to consistently invite all to continual renewal of heart and to lives committed to the living out of discipleship. This living out of the Gospel in our lives can be the greatest witness to the truth of salvation, and invitation to the world who has yet to know the living Christ. More than a feeling or a philosophical premise for our own individual lives, each of us is called to physical and tangible action. As a church then, together, we bridge the Good News and the social action in the midst of the world that has yet to know the saving power of transformation.

“To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world…The kerygma has a clear social content: at the very heart of the Gospel is life in community and engagement with others. The content of the first proclamation has an immediate moral implication centered on charity.” Pope Francis, Evanglii Gaudium

The kerygma then has concrete social demands in a world that is hungry, suffers violence, sickness, and indignity- it is the language of encounter. As scripture relates, it is the fullness of love expressed in mercy and justice, not just towards a few but towards all for the good of all. Thus while the Gospel is personal for each one of us it is inherently social.

“Beware then of stopping at a sterile contemplation of God present in yourself . Add action to contemplation; to the sight of the Divine presence add the faithful accomplishment of the Divine will.” St. Ignatius, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

Agreeably these demands of the Gospel can be quite challenging at the parish level as we seek more than a few isolated acts of charity and work towards becoming a committed church on the margins. Challenging yes and yet impossible-no.

This week, our suburban Catholic parish collaborative hosted a community panel of on the ground workers speaking to violence and healing within the inner city of Boston. From the vibrant small Presbyterian church in Roxbury, Rev. Liz Walker has found that the daily struggles of poverty and violence are inseparable from the task of evangelization. Along with fellow vineyard worker Nancy Kilburn, a monthly fellowship was begun to meet the trauma of the families and community affected by violence. In these “Can we Talk” sessions, the church seeks to meet the grief experienced through sharing a meal together, providing mental health support, music and even exercise.  While listening to the story of a mother who suddenly had lost her son to gun violence, our hearts ask how we can ever hope to heal the loss she feels. And yet this church community has helped to ease the loss, by providing the space to give voice to the pain these mothers, fathers and community have experienced.

What is a church on the margins- a church focused on the active work of evangelization?

In short, a home not only where we each experience Christ, but one where we meet Christ in one another daily. The kerygma moves not only within a congregation but through doors that are open, in disciples equipped to share what that love of Christ has done in their lives by committed action to those most in need of love and healing. Perhaps you ask what is the work that I am called to do? Take time today to consider the needs of your greater community that may not be met sufficiently already. For example, in a community where poverty abounds, meal centers are seeds of transformation and healing. Notice how often Jesus came to table?  And still even with a ministry that is presently active, know that there is a way for you too to become involved.

Reflect:

What are ways that I see my own faith challenged in giving voice to the Gospel? Have I given a ready witness to the love of God in my life by my action to love of neighbor? How can my parish community better serve the needs of the larger community, and what role can I serve in working to make this a reality?

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting:When Words Fail

“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” Thomas Merton

In sitting down this morning to write about this, I hesitated. Such a difficult topic, and yet so needed. On more occasions than I could have thought possible, I have encountered grief. Not only through my own experience but through those expressing abandonment in their grief, and confusion on the part of those who love them. While not professing to have a perfect answer, I humbly offer the following as spiritual guidelines in beginning the journey.

  1. Speak-but speak less. Do not underestimate the gift and consolation of listening. Your presence is still needed amidst the changes in the life of the one who mourns, though perhaps in a different way. Before speaking, pause, and allow the other the space to lead the conversation. In your listening, inwardly invite the Holy Spirit into the moment to guide the direction and breadth of discussion.

“Speak only if it improves the silence” Mahatma Gandhi

There are times when silence can speak volumes, and others where we are called to do more than talk but are called into the do-ing of life. When my brother, having committed suicide, left this world my own mother was left initially in a world of silence. The suddenness of his passing left her,for a short time, unable to cope with the everyday essentials of sleeping, eating and caring for herself. This I realized was something that I was being asked right then and there to take to doing. The roles had in one swift moment been reversed. For the many countless nights she had taken care of me, I felt privileged to return in kind, albeit in some small way. With a toddler in tow, I cleaned, cooked and took care of everything I could put my hands and feet to. Then I would sit beside her and let my son do his magic. Reaching up, smiling and looking into the eyes of his grandma he connected, drawing her out of herself and into the beauty of the life before her. Though slowly she came out of shell shock, it would really be months before she could truly speak to any of the pain that she had felt. This time of silence to the experience of grief was her a much needed time of healing and reflection, one that could not be rushed or anticipated.

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.” Washington Irving

  2.  There is no perfect response- Perhaps the most common question that continually comes forward from those seeking to offer consolation is simply, “What do I say?” There is an honest seeking to meet the pain and loss that our loved ones are facing with some sage advice or uplifting heartfelt message to ease their suffering. And yet, our words often fall short of touching the profound pain in grief of the situation. The moment we release ourselves from the responsibility of saying just the right thing, we can embrace the other with authenticity. That is not to say, however, we should speak every word that comes to the forefront of our thoughts. Strive to avoid platitudes and clichés like, “Time heals all wounds”, “Your loved one is in a better place”, “God wanted him/her with him” or “I know how you feel”To this day, three simple words seem to be a much needed balm when spoken truly from the heart..

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the action that we do. It is to God Almighty – how much we do it does not matter, because He is infinite, but how much love we put in that action. How much we do to Him in the person that we are serving.                                                -Mother Teresa

3. Love –but love more. The picture of someone that is deeply immersed in the grieving process isn’t a pretty one. It is messy, challenging, and calls forth from those that love them a willingness to get dirty in the process. It requires patience and understanding holding each death and each one who grieves in the uniqueness of the moment. Comparisons or preconceived notions of recovery fail to take this into consideration. So, for all those times when our desire to console is not well received or our small act of kindness feels unappreciated…love. When they reach for support from others, or seem to have no need for support from anyone…love. When we cannot understand what is holding them back , hold on to hope and…love.

Walking with someone in their brokenness is to recognize our own brokenness too. And in helping them to find their way, we discover both community and communion in the One who brings wholeness, love, peace, and joy in the journey.

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: A Slippery Slope

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She was a bit surprised to see him there..standing among his homeless companions of many years. For several months he had found sobriety along with an apartment and a day job, maintaining his distance from a number of his former friends. The last time we had seen him he had appeared healthy and in much better spirits thankful for the care and concern shown. Not today though. Today, he was visibly agitated and the closer she got the more she realized his sobriety was no more. Greeting everyone present, one by one she checked in with them and handing them coffee as they spoke.

“I need 5 dollars and if you really cared about me you’d give it to me”. “Jim”, said one of the other men “now you know she doesn’t give money. Leave her alone.” Yet, he persisted getting more belligerent each time he spoke, till finally he said. “You know what I need it for, and if I don’t have a drink soon I will die”.  Sadness, filled her heart at that moment. She had seen him at this point before and it had nearly taken his life. There was no such thing as one small drink, or a stopping point for “Jim” it was all consuming. He had fallen into his addiction again, and all of the old habits that befriend it.

As any conversation with an AA or NA member will tell you..sobriety is not a sprint but a lifelong cross country journey. A constant attraction towards your own destruction, with the deceptive lure of rationalization and self reliance there at the ready. Those family members and friends that stay the course are well accustomed to the roller coaster of pain, joy, success and failure that are present along the way.

Yet this is true, though perhaps to a lesser extent, of every battle with temptation, sin and desolation.  Do we recognize our own weaknesses and the slippery slope that we start down when we once again find ourselves facing our worst selves? Will we be pulled under, will we try to go it alone, or will we seek help?

Awareness and Accompaniment.

While each of us were made for more, we repeatedly find ourselves choosing less. Being aware of that which is lesser and our own inclinations to a particular temptation or sin is a good step towards being better prepared when we meet it again. Still, the beauty of our faith is that we are never alone in our journey towards God. Though sin usually carries with it guilt, shame, and insecurities- our faith bears mercy, love and hope.  Through reconciliation, and in community we find both strength and accompaniment, encountering not condemnation and an all loving and merciful Father. Only then are we truly able to accompany others- to offer love and mercy in the struggle, and compassion and hope where none were evident before.

“Lord, thank you for loving me- knowing all of my weaknesses and being there to catch me when I fall.  Help me to keep my eyes open to the pitfalls ahead, and my ears ready to hear your voice. Carry me through, Lord. And please I ask dear gracious Father, make my heart ready to respond to the needs of others.” 

Peace,

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Worth Revisiting: Radical Hospitality

There has been much talk in recent years within ministry about the notion of radical hospitality. Not merely seeking to embrace those we know, it is an openness albeit a willingness to authentically meet and walk with one another in our weakness, suffering, and challenges of life. This is the experience of encounter, and as such cannot be superficial or thought of as just an act of charity. Each of us must be vulnerable, and ready to extend ourselves beyond our pew, well past our comfort zone, beyond even the doors of the church to welcome the stranger with love.

Yet, what does this look like in REAL life?

Some 23 years ago, my then fiancé and I were traveling the 1,400 miles to visit my family in Arkansas when the blizzard of 93’ hit. Praying that the weather would let up the further south we went, we pushed onward. However, that was not to be as the interstate in front of us was closing and we found ourselves in uncharted territory on a long stretch of road near Winchester, KY. With only 2 choices available, a 6 ft. tall snow bank to our right or a jackknifed semi to our left…we chose the snow bank. Sitting there in a car now engulfed in snow, I admit, I felt utterly despondent. For, as far as the eye could see was snow and farmland and we knew no one. We couldn’t stay there forever, as our tank of gas and thereby the heat would only last for so long. So, there my later hubby and I prayed together. And, no sooner had we done so did we see a shadowy figure approaching from a distance.

With a steaming cup of coffee in hand he gingerly made his way to check on both the driver in the semi as well as us. “How are you?, he asked”  “We are ok, but a long way from home”, we answered. “Where are ya’ll headed?” “Arkansas, to visit my family but traveling from Massachusetts”, I replied. “Well, why don’t ya’ll come on in the house, warm up, let them know you are ok, and join us for dinner.” As we walked across the field and the house came into view I breathed a sigh of relief, finally ceasing to calculate fuel reserves.

With two young children in tow this beautiful family welcomed these two strangers into their home and lives that day. Inwardly, I wondered if they had even considered whether or not we were harmless or the gift that they were offering. Their gift of generosity came so natural and was so heartfelt that we very readily felt as if we had known them for years. A very good thing too, since it would be a couple of days before the roads cleared and our car could be unearthed. Even this was another example of the breath of their commitment to radical hospitality. Knowing that we had very little extra income to spare, Mike, our gracious host, called his friend who volunteered to use his tractor with chains to help rescue the stranded Camero. Then placing heaters under the engine they were at last able to bring it back to life.

The morning we left, well rested and well fed, John and I knew that God had placed these incredible people in our lives to teach us the true meaning of hospitality and Christian love. Not only exchanging Christmas cards, with the advent of social media we have made it a point to stay connected. Their children now grown, are married and beginning  young families of their own. What a legacy of Christian discipleship Mike and Connie have modeled for their children, for my husband and I , and all those they encounter.

This is the challenge for each of us in our everyday-to go forth living out our faith with radical hospitality. To accept the invitation to meet the lost, abandoned, marginalized and wounded with generous love. Since some wounds we cannot see, and anyone of us can be in need of radical hospitality at any time, we must begin to see with the eyes of the heart. This takes practice and reminders of the moments when God has taken the initiative to rescue us, unleashing his otherwise unimaginable love and mercy.

Reflect:

When and how have I been a recipient of radical hospitality? In what ways might God be asking me to witness his radical hospitality today?

Peace,

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A Church on the Margins

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Evangelization

is at the heart of the church- for to share the Gospel is to consistently invite all to continual renewal of heart and to lives committed to the living out of discipleship. This living out of the Gospel in our lives can be the greatest witness to the truth of salvation, and invitation to the world who has yet to know the living Christ. More than a feeling or a philosophical premise for our own individual lives, each of us is called to physical and tangible action. As a church then, together, we bridge the Good News and the social action in the midst of the world that has yet to know the saving power of transformation.

“To evangelize is to make the kingdom of God present in our world…The kerygma has a clear social content: at the very heart of the Gospel is life in community and engagement with others. The content of the first proclamation has an immediate moral implication centered on charity.” Pope Francis, Evanglii Gaudium

The kerygma then has concrete social demands in a world that is hungry, suffers violence, sickness, and indignity- it is the language of encounter. As scripture relates, it is the fullness of love expressed in mercy and justice, not just towards a few but towards all for the good of all. Thus while the Gospel is personal for each one of us it is inherently social.

“Beware then of stopping at a sterile contemplation of God present in yourself . Add action to contemplation; to the sight of the Divine presence add the faithful accomplishment of the Divine will.” St. Ignatius, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius

Agreeably these demands of the Gospel can be quite challenging at the parish level as we seek more than a few isolated acts of charity and work towards becoming a committed church on the margins. Challenging yes and yet impossible-no.

This week, our suburban Catholic parish collaborative hosted a community panel of on the ground workers speaking to violence and healing within the inner city of Boston. From the vibrant small Presbyterian church in Roxbury, Rev. Liz Walker has found that the daily struggles of poverty and violence are inseparable from the task of evangelization. Along with fellow vineyard worker Nancy Kilburn, a monthly fellowship was begun to meet the trauma of the families and community affected by violence. In these “Can we Talk” sessions, the church seeks to meet the grief experienced through sharing a meal together, providing mental health support, music and even exercise.  While listening to the story of a mother who suddenly had lost her son to gun violence, our hearts ask how we can ever hope to heal the loss she feels. And yet this church community has helped to ease the loss, by providing the space to give voice to the pain these mothers, fathers and community have experienced.

What is a church on the margins- a church focused on the active work of evangelization?

In short, a home not only where we each experience Christ, but one where we meet Christ in one another daily. The kerygma moves not only within a congregation but through doors that are open, in disciples equipped to share what that love of Christ has done in their lives by committed action to those most in need of love and healing. Perhaps you ask what is the work that I am called to do? Take time today to consider the needs of your greater community that may not be met sufficiently already. For example, in a community where poverty abounds, meal centers are seeds of transformation and healing. Notice how often Jesus came to table?  And still even with a ministry that is presently active, know that there is a way for you too to become involved.

Reflect:

What are ways that I see my own faith challenged in giving voice to the Gospel? Have I given a ready witness to the love of God in my life by my action to love of neighbor? How can my parish community better serve the needs of the larger community, and what role can I serve in working to make this a reality?