Less Than Nothing

Service and compassion for the poor“Mom..we have NOTHING to eat in the house!”

This familiar refrain, that can be heard echoing throughout our homes, never ceases to annoy us as moms who know better. Yet, if we take a moment to consider, what we are truly bothered by is the lack of understanding of what real need looks like by our children. Need that has no instant fill, and want not for the frosting on the cake but for the cake itself and for the person caring enough to bake it. And gratitude, found in time spent with those you love and an awareness that tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.

Growing up, there wasn’t always the food I wanted but we always had food and plenty of it. And my mother had instilled in me that service wasn’t simply an activity to try on, but more of a lifestyle. So I became used to “neighbors” coming to our door, sitting at our table and passing down clothing and toys that were no longer needed. This perspective, to see others as myself, has remained despite any change in circumstance or surroundings. And yet, I have to say that God still had much to teach me during my recent mission trip to Haiti.

His tear-brimmed eyes were so striking that they seemingly took up the most of his small round face. And behind them was a haunting loneliness and hunger, the depth of which far surpassed any that I had encountered before. Unlike other huts visited, no smile came forth , rather an unknowing and apprehension of the kindness shown. Today we were there, but tomorrow well, the isolation and uncertainty would return.

Coming home from Haiti then, to the laments of my own children desiring more ample food choices, was almost too much to bear. “You have so much, and yet you only can see what you lack!”, the words spilling out almost uncontrollably. “But Mom, would you stop treating us as if we are orphans from Haiti!”, my youngest responded. This is when I realized they couldn’t fully understand what they had never seen or experienced. Instead of criticizing them, I decided that now was the perfect time to show them. With each photo a story, and behind each story a teachable moment and a commitment to foster mission in their lives.

Although there is much that is difficult to translate with just a picture, they began to ask questions about the people that I encountered. As well as, questions as to the problems that have caused the systematic poverty and unrest that have so embroiled this island nation. “Mom, how can we really help if tomorrow things will return back to where they were or worse? ” Accompanying these words, were a felt culpability and contrition along with a desire to solve a seemingly endless problem. As a mom, I want to encourage  and empower them to be part of the change wherever they are.  Instantly, I recalled the passage from Deuteronomy 15:11  and Proverbs 31:8-9 which not only acknowledges the longevity of poverty but also our responsibility to care for the poor and work for change.  Isaiah and Paul to the Romans take it a bit further stating that we must:
“Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow”.  Isaiah 1:17
All the while…
“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:11-13

This is not an easy request and yet old and new testament alike call us to accountability on our care and compassion for those in need. So it isn’t that being in a position of authority or wealth is inherently wrong, rather it is what we choose to do with that wealth and power that is the important distinction. In fact, if we allow God to use or gifts for his good then those gifts do not end with us but are endlessly multiplied.

Pray: Lord, I come to you today, asking for a servant’s heart. Please show me the ways in which I can best serve and give to those in need, and help me to be willing become less attached to the created things of this world and more to your beautiful creation within it. And, if it pleases you Lord, let me teach my children to do the same.

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With All Our Mite

As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.  He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” Luke 21:1-4

Growing up in the rural South, I already knew it to be true. Generosity is not dependent upon an abundance or determined by a life blessed by circumstance. Instead, I have witnessed time and again that those seemingly with the least have given beyond their means to both friend and stranger.  From the outside it makes no sense, borrowing from tomorrow’s need to provide for another’s need today. And yet, this is exactly what Jesus is so poignantly speaking to in this passage.

Recently, while on mission to Haiti, this scripture in countless ways was brought to life. With the young and old alike there was an innate understanding that there was a responsibility beyond oneself. Young children pushing much older ones in wheelchairs, and teenagers caring for their fellow orphaned brothers and sisters as their own. Outside the orphanage in the remote villages, families in need themselves spoke of their “neighbor” who could also use some help.

Bearing food and supplies and with smiles and prayers, we entered small huts and makeshift shelters. Constructed on the sides of mountains and down solitary paths they lived and yet they knew no stranger. No boundaries or obstacles existed in the warmth of their welcome and in the gratitude expressed for our visit. Offering the joy of cuddling newborns and the gleeful excitement of children I could not help but wonder who was really the gifter here.

Blind, thin and of advanced age he beckoned us into his home. Inside a small table, chair and simple bed were all that occupied the mud covered wooden canopy hut. As with many others we visited, the rice, beans and sugar that we carried were the only apparent food around.
“Mesi! (thank you!)”, he exclaimed. “I prayed that you would come, I prayed for your safety and when I heard the helicopter I knew my prayers were answered.” Standing there I could not help but soak in his words, like a downpour of rain upon the dry parched earth that we stood upon.
Through the full-time missionary leading and translating for us, we learned how the last year had treated him. “With the drought, the crops that I had planted amounted to little.” Using his fingers as a guide he had painstakingly planted and hopefully awaited a fruitful bounty. Yet when it did not , rather than store the meager return, he chose to give it to his neighbor’s livestock to keep them from dying.

His selflessness epitomizes a people unbelievably resilient amidst daily unimaginable  odds. A people living on land that can truly no longer environmentally support them. Yet, what they offer is generosity of heart and a joy that is presumably limitless. In parting, we were offered his continual prayers that we would return safely to our families and could once again come back to visit. This priceless gift of prayer from a compassionate would be saint most assuredly was heard and will forever be treasured and repaid. Even if it takes a lifetime.

“Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” Luke 6:38

Peace,

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Traveling Light

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“Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’  If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.  “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ Luke 10:4-9

This week I was reminded of this notion of “traveling light” as I left the ministries at my local parish to join the staff for two parishes a little over half an hour away.  Having already met numerous parishioners, and attending several staff and collaborative meetings, there was little concern that I would be welcome. With open arms, warm smiles and sincere prayers I have already been made to feel, within these first few days, a part of this beautiful parish family.

With so much to take in, to learn, and experience there is an essentialness in traveling light both physically and spiritually. I’d venture to say that we often bring much to bear on our present by way of the past, yet there is such grace in encountering anew. In leaving behind our preconceived ideas, desires and perceptions, we are empty and ready to be filled to accept God’s will for our lives. We are free to allow God to take the lead with the shape and direction of our day. No need for anything that will weigh us down, or hinder us in the mission that lies before us. Does this mean that we should not look ahead, or plan for the future?  No,  not at all but rather “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Prov. 16:3

Not so easy to do, you say? I agree. For this reforming self-proclaimed “type A” who once fancied herself in knowing every detail, it is a constant turning towards Christ. Fully aware that I cannot do it on my own, I no longer want to go it solo either. In letting go of the baggage, I am seeking instead to be open for the unbelievable surprises that God has in store.

 “Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 

What of the physical lightness in traveling? Bearing in mind that my lunch plans might change these initial days, I purposefully  prepared light snacks that would keep if I had other things to do.  In doing so, I could say “Yes, I’d love to grab a bite to eat!”, or “Sure, I have time to talk.” and enjoy the fellowshipping that comes along with it. For, how can others be given a chance to share of their generous hospitality if we are always so self sufficient that we are never able to accept it?

I have also been working in the last few days to pare down to just some of the essentials for my home away from home. Treasured books, pictures, and a few of my favorite saints have now found a new dwelling place where they will hopefully inspire others as well.

 What has traveling light given me?

A greater trust in God’s abundant providence, a renewed understanding of radical hospitality and a soul ready to embrace whatever lies ahead . May you too discover the graces in traveling light!

Peace,

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An Engaging Faith- June 15-19th

You are invited to join me this week for An Engaging Faith on Real Life Radio daily at 4pm EST.

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This week’s lineup is part of our Mission and Evangelization Week. A week where we discuss what it is to be a Church of mission, and evangelization engaged in the work of spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth. 

Monday: Maureen Crowley Heil, Director of  Programs and Development for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, in the Archdiocese of Boston speaks on World Mission. 

 

 

 

Tuesday: Maureen Crowley Heil, Director of  Programs and Development for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, in the Archdiocese of Boston speaks on the work here in the US with the Missionary Childhood Association. 

 

Wednesday: Mary Margaret Kerry,FSP Daughter of St. Paul and current author of “Live Christ, Give Christ”, a collection of prayers for the New Evangelization

 
Thursday: Mission and Evangelization, Connections: ‎Looking at this idea of Mission and Evangelization within our local communities. Laura Chun, Loyola Chicago alum shares with us the beauty of living and serving within the Franciscan Mission of San Luis Rey Parish in Oceanside, California .

 

Friday: Weekly Recap Join me as discuss the past week’s news, events, tweets and posts! What does our Catholic Faith have to do the compassionate care and service to others, including those who are living around the world?