In this week’s gospel we hear the disciples tell Jesus “Send her away…”. Of course, they are talking about a women who keeps pestering them and is not ‘one of them.’ This scene in which Jesus ultimately helps the woman because of her great faith raises a question that has faced the church over time. What is our mission as church? Who do we minister to? Only those who are in the church on a regular basis and maybe even others who come part time but are clearly of the faith? Or do we minister to those who have no faith or different beliefs – in short, do we evangelize? On the surface, the answers seems simple enough – of course we minister to all and try to evangelize the unbelievers. But how often do we truly take our faith out and share it with others, defend it when necessary, and stand by it even when it gets uncomfortable (think martyrs)?
As Vincentians, we too are called to share our ministry with all. We clearly know we minister to non-Catholics as well as Catholics. But what is our mission and do we provide our ministry without bias? Do we view those in jail differently than those not? Do we offer help to those who seem to think differently than us as readily as those who seem compliant? Are we only about providing immediate assistance or do we look for changes that are transformative and more complex?
Father, help me to be inclusive of all who have needs of all types as you bring them before me. Help me to not shy away from those who make me more uncomfortable. Give me the courage to expand my mercy without bias or conditions, seeking to bring your presence and healing hands into all situations. Give me the humility to recognize your presence in each individual and situation, and to respond with loving kindness. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
Our readings this weekend remind us that truth – even truth delivered to us directly from God – can be overshadowed, overcome and lost in the face of fear and confusion. In our gospel, Jesus commands Peter to walk to him on the water (at Peter’s request mind you) and Peter’s fear overcame the truth he knew – that Jesus would care for him. Our second reading from Romans finds Paul reminding the Christians that he speaks the truth of Christ. They are confused at how God’s divine plan could be frustrated by Israel’s unbelief and they fear it will impact them. He discourages them from complacency and anxiety and encourages them to focus on the truth of Christ. Elijah finds God in the whispering sound but must overcome heavy winds, earthquakes and fire to find His presence and truth.
As Vincentians, Simplicity is one of our five virtues we are called to by St. Vincent. Simplicity is about truth for both our neighbors and ourselves. Truth about the reality of the situations people find themselves in and what is needed to change direction. Truth about the love Christ has for them through us, and the need for us to persist with Zeal and Charity. But fear, complexity of issues and overwhelming pain can overcome truth for both those we minister to as well as ourselves if we lose sight of God’s hand in all we do. Are we like Paul, providing a calming presence grounded in a sure knowledge of our testimony and actions given in concert with and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Do we offer truth spoken with frankness and integrity and delivered with gentleness, kindness and understanding?
Father, grant me the virtue of simplicity that I might always focus on truthfulness and integrity of actions at all times. Give me the grace to be guided by the Holy Spirit, offering a calmness that allows your voice to be heard in the whispering sound. Let us provide a presence that allows us to move past fear, confusion and uncertainty. Allow us to always illuminate the truth of your words and your will in all situations. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
In Peter’s 2 nd letter this weekend we hear his account of the Transfiguration moment. In the gospel, as they come down from the mountain, Jesus instructs the apostles to say nothing about this until after the Resurrection. Before the Resurrection, no one would have believed them. But after, with the context of the occurrence of the Resurrection, the two work together to build the authority and credibility of what the apostles have to say. Our faith is given to us by God and made real by the experiences of those who came before us. The apostles shared their experiences and the events they witnessed to help others to come to believe. It is the joy, the confidence of true knowledge, and the love shared through compassionate care which makes the authenticity of their words become evident.
As Vincentians, we bring our experiences, our faith and all the things we have learned and seen with us as we minister to those in need. Sometimes they are people of faith who simply need to be reminded of God’s goodness and love for us. Other times, we may be the first ‘evidence’ of God’s goodness, through the ministry, compassion and care we provide. How do we convey the authenticity of our actions and the presence and working of Christ in the lives of those we serve WITHOUT obvious evangelization? Do we, in the words of St. Francis, “preach the gospel always, and use word only when necessary?”
Father, I give thanks to you for the witness of others, especially St. Vincent and Jesus who showed us your presence in the poor. I am grateful for all the experiences of my life – both good and bad – which have formed me. I ask that you grace me with the wisdom and humility to use those gifts you have provided to me to help others come to know your love, compassion and mercy. Allow me the grace of authenticity in doing your work. Let me be a witness to your presence in the world. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen
We are in the ‘season of parables’ – a time in the gospels when we here parable after parable instructing us in how to life. Why? (A question even the apostles ask). Because Jesus goes to the people where they are at. He goes to them in a way they can understand, reaching out to draw them in. He tries to touch them and reach them in any way he can to draw them into the kingdom of heaven. Pope Francis is very much like this in his approach. It is about the person and a focus on the person. The church goes to meet them where they are at, to talk with them, to walk with them, to love them. It is not about the person needing to first conform to the church.
For us as Vincentians, this concept is so important. Our Lord brings many people before us. People in all different positions of need. People with all different levels of faith and understanding. And we are called to meet them where they are at, to talk with them, to walk with them and to love them. Do we accept people where they are at, or do we try to conform them to new thinking and new ways that they are not yet familiar with?
Father, allow me to venture out, meeting those you bring to me where they are at. Allow me to accept them for who they are. Allow me to love them for who they are and to see your presence in them. Give me the grace to embrace them, serving in humility and love. I pray all of this in your Son’s name. Amen