It appears like our church, society, and government is coming apart at the seams.
What is an answer and what can we to do?
First and foremost, we need to acknowledge that we are suffering. We can’t hide, run, shop, drink or medicate our problems away. We need to realize that we need help and that we are not alone in our suffering and pain. God is present in our midst, we can find support in him and one another as well as be support for one another.
We also need to resist buying into fear, hopelessness, or hate.
To be a faithful disciple, we will turn to and align our will with God, know and live our faith in action.
We are to trust as did the widow of Zarephath from our first reading and the poor widow giving her last two coins to the temple treasury in the Gospel,“…she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mk 12:44). Each of these women were practicing a spiritual physics that defied what appeared to be the reality before them. Each had barely anything, one her last meal and the other two coins, yet they gave all they had, trusting that God would provide for them. They trusted in God’s providential care.
Each of us, the baptized, are the Church. Each of us have a unique and particular part to play in God’s plan. Gathering together each week to worship, to be encouraged, to learn about our faith, to become holy in our participation in the life of Jesus, and to pray for the needs of our world is a significant counter to the culture of death.
As people of faith we are to aspire to care for one another and creation, to resist the temptation to divide, demean, and define people as other and instead see each other as God sees us, as brothers and sisters. Elijah and the widow of Zarephath saw each other as human beings not people of different ethnicity or faith traditions. Each were in need, trusted in God, and supported one another.
Fr. Matt Malone in the October 29, 2018 issue of America Magazine, wrote about an account of his pilgrimage to northern Spain. At one stop, the mountaintop shrine of Our Lady of Arantzazu, he met Brother Antonio a man of quiet faithfulness who is the keeper of the keys. He leads tourists to experience the shrine and has been doing so for 68 years. What impressed Fr. Malone was his humility, faithfulness and wonder. His smile radiated to such an extent that it appeared that he was seeing the Marian statue for the first time.
We can also experience the joy expressed by Br. Antonio when we also resist the urge to curve in upon our self from fear or despondency, and instead reach out of our comfort zones and be willing to risk accompanying others in acts of kindness, love, and service. In this way, we can come to see that we are not alone in our suffering. When we are willing to share our struggles and trials, our agreements and disagreements, our joys and successes we can grow our bonds of relationship such that what we face does not weaken us, but helps us to grow stronger.
We are also able to notice God more and be present to others when we pray. For it is in the silence of our heart that we hear God speak. It is in the silence of our heart that we can feel his gentle leading toward a particular ministry, small group for support, and will be more apt to notice another in need and have the courage to reach out in small acts of kindness and love.
A boy named Mark exemplifies this awareness. He was walking home one day and noticed that a boy had fallen. Books, a bat and glove, a few sweaters, and small tape recorder were scattered about. Mark went to the boy and offered to help. The two middle school students realized they were heading for home in the same direction so Mark offered to help the boy carry some of his things.
As they walked Mark discovered that the boy’s name was Bill. The pair arrived at Bill’s house first and Bill invited Mark in for a Coke and to watch some TV. Mark ended up staying the afternoon, they talked, laughed and enjoyed their time together. Mark and Bill would interact on occasion at school, have lunch once in awhile and then graduated middle school. They would go on to attend the same high school together and would have some brief interactions over their four years together.
Three weeks before graduation Bill reminded Mark of their first encounter and asked if Mark wondered why he was carrying all that stuff home that day? He then went on to tell Mark, “You see, I cleaned out my locker because I didn’t want to leave a mess for anyone else. I had stolen some of my mother’s sleeping pills and I was going home to commit suicide. But after we spent some time together talking and laughing, I realized that if I had killed myself, I would have missed that time and so many others that might follow. So you see, Mark, when you picked up my books that day, you did a lot more. You saved my life” (see Schlatter 1993, 35).
How do we address our current challenges, the problem of violence, and the hyper polarization in our country and Church?
One approach is to follow the path that the two widows, Br. Antonio, and Mark took as shared in the accounts above which is to become contemplatives in action. We not only learn about our faith but we are to live our faith, put it into action, trust in and allow ourselves to be transformed by the God of Jesus Christ who is love incarnate. We are to turn to God in prayer and follow his lead to accompany one another, as brothers and sisters, living out our faith in quiet, yet determined ways, by countering darkness with light, hate with love, by being welcoming, offering a smile, holding each other accountable with mercy, step by step and hand in hand on the grand adventure and journey we call life.
Photo credit: Exercise in trust!
Schlatter, John W. A Simple Gesture in Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories To Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit. Edited by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Deerfield Beach, FL: Health Communications, 1993.