If you follow Backlit With Joy, you know our week of Ursuline Summer Service was filled with beautiful people and meaningful encounters. Click here for a 3 minute video that recaps this blessed week. Thanks to all who supported and prayed for us!
In November of last year, I was very pleased to participate in the national convention of the Catholic Volunteer Network. People both young and old arrived in St. Louis, enthused and committed to the value of volunteer opportunities. There were great speakers like Fr. Greg Boyle, SJ, author of Tattoos on the Heart (if you haven’t read this, it’s a must!) and Jim Wallis, founder and editor of Sojourners magazine (another wonderful publication). I came away energized and newly grounded in why we offer service projects.
Fast forward to my recent trip to San Antonio, Texas, to prepare for our 2018 Ursuline Summer Service week there in July. I had plenty of “busy work” to do: check out the rooms at the university where the volunteers and I will be housed, work out schedule details for the week, be sure I know how to travel from point A to point B in the city. But as soon as I returned to our service site, Haven for Hope, a place of comprehensive services and new beginnings for persons experiencing homelessness, I was immersed in why I love doing this and heard echos of the speakers from November:
- Are we willing to go deeper? Are we willing to see ourselves in kinship with those on the margins?
- Volunteering is aimed at our blindness. The man in the Gospel who encountered Jesus said, “Now I am able to see.”
- “Whatever you do for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you do for me.” —Jesus reminds us: IT IS ME!
- We don’t go to the margins to make a difference; we go to the margins so the folks there will make us different. It’s not “what am I going to do” but “what’s going to happen here.”
On Friday at Haven for Hope, I met some of the people we came to know there last year. It was a lovely reunion, and I was delighted to tell them I’ll be back in July. In the meantime, I pray that we may all have eyes opened to see more clearly our kinship with one another, and do all we can to strengthen this.
I heard a great homily recently. The question was asked: why do we tend to remember our “Good Friday” experiences more than the Easter ones? People can usually report the wounds and hurts they’ve been dealt in life. It’s easy to recall every detail of insults or failures or even simple disappointments. But what about all the Easter moments?
There’s the friend who speaks just the right words of support. And the sun made visible after days and days of rain! Easter moments are those when our hearts suddenly feel lighter and we know this comes from God within us. They’re the everyday miracles that occur unexpected and in ways we had never imagined. The awe-inspiring beauty of nature, encounters with people who are deep-down good, and confidence that life can break forth from the tomb of pain and death—-these are flashes of Easter joy that are real. May we recognize them!
“We are one body, the body of Christ, and we do not stand alone.” Students in our high schools sing this John Michael Talbot song with energy at school liturgies. It makes audible the unity they strive to live within their school communities.
We ARE the body of Christ–called to connect, support, embrace and love. I thought of this on Martin Luther King Day. How are we Christ’s body? Cardinal Joseph Tobin remarked recently of the Church, “it’s not the Elks or the good old boys club. This is the body of Christ, and this is where his word is proclaimed and the sacraments are celebrated. I wouldn’t let anybody drive me out of that.”
Yet, the body is a suffering one. “The racial divide . . . is creating what I call a ‘Corinthians crisis,’ where one part of the body of Christ—Christians of color—is suffering while the white part of the body of Christ is not feeling their pain,” wrote Jim Wallis (The Heresy of Ideological Religion, Sojourners, February 2018). We do not stand alone. “Yes, I see the Church as the body of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.” wrote Dr. King. Makes me seriously ponder . . . .
Backlit with Joy has been silent for the last few weeks—sorry! Personal and family challenges usurped precious writing time; unexpected health needs required full attention for a while. It’s good to be back, and what better time than Advent, season of listening, expectation and hope.
As I begin my Advent pondering, I’m aware of many health professionals I’ve met in the past few weeks. Hospitals are a bit chaotic, and doctors’ offices can seem like caves where one waits stoically with other nameless individuals in various stages of crisis. The health system in this country is not at all easy to navigate. But I’ve been deeply moved by individual doctors, nurses or receptionists who take time to listen and don’t succumb to the assembly line push. How reassuring it’s been to hear someone say, “Call me. If you have a question or concern, call me.”
There’s a spark of God in those who give personal attention to others, a God who is never rushed, always present. Isn’t it good to know that in this age of impersonal, detached communication, our God says, “Call to me, I will answer you. . . . When I hear your voice, I will listen to you” (Jeremiah 3). I’m grateful for those who image that action in their own lives, giving compassionate attention to others in the midst of busy schedules. This Advent, I want to practice being more like them.