19th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)
I have a friend whose outlook on the state of the world has been reduced to conspiracy theories and an impending Armageddon. She shocked me the other day with words to this affect: “This city is home to a bunch of grubbers and people who are used to having everything done for them. When (the end) breaks loose and they lose everything and come knocking at my door, I won’t open it. Because I planned ahead and I’m taking care of myself.”
This is so sad. In addition to her teeny tiny unhappy world that she believes is about to implode, she has no faith and no vision. No faith in the generosity and goodness of others; no vision for a better world.
Granted, the daily hell we hear and read about and experience is unbearable. No need to spell out the escalating atrocities. People, nations, and leaders do unspeakable things to other people, nations, and leaders. It has to stop. “I beg you, stop. I ask you with all my heart,” Pope Francis said as part of his message to the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican for the Angelus noon prayer on Sunday, July 27, 2014.
Let me tell you a different story. Three students making their way to a distant city, driving (perhaps a little too fast) on an unpaved road in a rural area of a South American country experienced a blowout and found their car spinning out of control until it slammed into a cinder block home. Amidst the shattered glass and gravel, the stunned students pulled themselves out of the wreckage. The two-room house, home to a poor couple with 11 children, was rubble. Miraculously no one was in the house at the time of the impact, but the damage was severe. Also miraculous, thanks in part to seat belts and airbags the three students’ injuries were limited to whiplash, cuts and bruises.
What happened next, as told to me by one of the students, provides a context and instruction to those of us who suffer losses and face our daily rubble, especially when the damage prevents us from seeing beyond the hurt to restoration. “After a few hours passed and the sun set, the family invited us to sit with them in the house (literally on bricks that had fallen) to eat dinner with them. They brought us eggs and potatoes and put blankets over our shoulders. I can’t really think of anything more incredible than this – we destroyed their home, and they invited us to eat with them.”
Jesus says “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Do not be afraid. What might have been a human tragedy can be re-framed as a miracle of human kindness. These are the whispers that tell us God is with us. These are the acts that renew our faith and give us courage. Jesus is here. This is what living in right relationship with the World looks like.This is what it means to be an evangelizing people.
The World is not a mess.