Friday, December 4, 2015

Misericordia

A friend of mine lost a family member just recently.  Her mother had just passed a way a few weeks ago.  Today I attended the funeral.  It is always interesting to listen to a Mass in another language, to see the differences of culture and temperaments.  There is something somber and grounding about seeing a funeral from that perspective.  I am far from fluent but I catch some words and phrases here and there.  I kept hearing that word today, misericordia, mercy.  Then my heart broke as I watched this man's daughter break down at the casket.   I had no problem understanding her.  She pokes in long, drawn out words... slow enough for my feeble mind to grasp them... I think even if you didn't know any Spanish the torment in her voice would have told you plainly that she was calling out to God and asking why.

I began to cry as I pulled out my rosary and began to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for a man I had never met.  They probably thought the gringo quite silly in the back, with tears running down his face.  As I began to read the readings for tomorrow's daily Mass, it struck me that this is what it means to be like Jesus. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.  How lost one must feel to lose a parent.   I have both of mine still so I cannot understand even if I empathize.   A loved one dying is one of the hardest things to bear.

On days like this I think back to my great grandmother Viola's funeral.  I was very young then.  I remember sobbing and being wracked with sadness. I did not know how to process the fact that I could no longer stop by and sit on her porch listening to her stories.   It truly is a moment when you feel lost.  How much more so a parent?  A brother?  A sister?   An article caught my eye this morning about refugees from Syria again.   Christian refugees had just been turned away from California.  These men and women have left everything to try to find safety.. to flee from persecution and death.  Some have even been killed as people have been thrown overboard from boats to drown on the journey, because of one radical ideology or another.  Children have been found dead on the seashore.  Yet, I see people who claim to be children of God declaring that we must send them "back where they came from." 

How are we not moved with pity?  How do our hearts not go out to them?  Did we learn nothing from our past?   We are humanity.  They are part of us.  There are bad people in every nation, every tongue, every skin color.  There are good people in every nation, every tongue, every skin color.  Who are we to claim to be Christian and yet begin to deny love?  Jesus demands of his Apostles today, "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.”  Every single item you own, every dollar in your bank account, every breath you have... was given to you freely.   God has blessed us so abundantly in this country.  Yet, we charge people to share in our blessings.  "You need to be a citizen."  "You need to speak English!"   "You need to drink beer and eat meat!"  How dare we put a quantifier on who we love when God has chosen to love us without prejudice? 

Our goal as Catholics is to allow Christ to transform us through the Sacraments into images of himself.  To restore us to the communion we had with God in the garden of Eden.  That means we are to be more like God and less like the world.  The old testament reading for tomorrow says:

He will be gracious to you when you cry out,
as soon as he hears he will answer you.
The Lord will give you the  bread you need
and the water for which you thirst.


Is that the kind of person you are?  Is that the kind of nation you are helping form?  Every day someone out there cries out to you to be fed.  Whether it be a refugee from another country, a co-worker, or a member of your own family.   Saint Agustine said,  "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."     Are you helping people find rest?  Both in this life and the next?  Are you helping them find shelter from the storms of life, both physical and spiritual?  Are you reaching out to everyone and not just those who are close to home?  Christmas is coming soon.  Christ's Mass.  Without either of those, it's just another party.   As we approach Christ's Mass through Advent ask yourself, are you helping prepare the world for the coming of the Savior?  Or are you only trying to prepare yourself? 

His servant and yours,
Brian