July 10, 2016
Dear Believers in Jesus,
The gospel today (Luke 10:25-37) challenges us to love God and our neighbor. People ask me all the time in our parish why I preach on serving people in poverty.
First of all, I do not know what else to preach about. This is my experience of working with people as a priest. No matter how much money, power, prestigious, education, wealth, admiration, control, or selfishness we possesses, we all need God.
When push comes to shove, our own personal poverty is the place where Jesus lives. We need a crack in our own human hearts to understand that we cannot control life, that we do not possess all the answers, that we need something greater than ourselves. This opening in our heart is a place of faith, the place where God’s mercy and forgiveness can find a home.
The gospel teaches us that we not only need to love God, but also people. This is the greatest of all commandments. This is also the one commandment we first walk away from. It is easy to sit in silent prayer and live in the illusion that we are holy. This gospel challenges that notion, that real holiness is the ability to role up our sleeves and to live our relationship with people who really need God.
When we serve people in need, we are not on a power trip. We cannot look to ourselves and say what great people we are because we are living the Spiritual and Corporal works of mercy. In fact, we begin to learn from people who need God, from people who are honest about their lives, from people who live with pain, suffering and loss. Humility is a great place for grace to grow.
Faith is a tool to educate us about how God loves us but also we learn from people’s suffering. We learn how to extend our lives beyond our comfort; we learn to pray from our common brokenness. This is the way God invites us into these two commandments. These are not legal sentences to memorize, but these sentences are lived as the real mission of the Church.
We live in a society that says, “ I have my stuff and other people can get a job and work for their stuff as well.” We learn from serving God in our neighbor that not everyone has the mental and emotional capacity to apply for a job or to keep a job if they were really able to get one on their own. We cannot be people who listen to this gospel on one hand and hold on to judgment, condemnation and arrogance on the other. This gospel challenges us in our core, to love God and our neighbor as well. In fact our salvation depends on it.
We live with many gifts, talents and opportunities. We are called to be grateful for what we are in God and what we have. We live out of the abundance of God’s grace and mercy. We also learn, the more we pray, to serve people who hurt, people who are afraid, people who seem lost and forgotten. We implement our pray in the world by learning how to serve.
This is the mission of the Church; to put into practice toward others the love that God has given us. The Good Samaritan in today’s gospel teaches us all to go the extra mile for people, to be challenged by Jesus’ teaching and to not be satisfied until people’s lives are healthy, loving and peace filled.
The Church teaches that life matters. We do not limit our service to certain lives. People are people no matter their backgrounds or no matter how they have complicated their lives with sex, drugs, alcohol or power. Real life is the life we reverence as the Church. We live our lives in order to serve. This is the mission of the Church.
This is why I speak about poverty all the time; because we are all poor, and in our common poverty, Jesus heals and loves us.
Some questions to consider this week:
How can I pray and reflect more deeply on my own life experience?
How can I image the needs of people differently than I have in the past?
What stories in my own life can I point toward to show that I am not in control of my own life or situations?
How can I better pray and serve in the heartbreaking stories of other people?
How can I be more grateful for the mercy of God?
I will be away on retreat this week. Please pray for me.
Blessings to you all,