Reflection for Sunday – February 13, 2022

Readings: Jeremiah 17: 5-8; 1 Corinthians 15: 12, 16-20; Luke 6: 17, 20-26 
Preacher: Deni Mack

My mother’s father, John Monaghan, at age fourteen, promised his father on his deathbed, to educate his sisters. He was a blessing to his poor family as he worked to support them.  No longer poor, his sisters Kate and Mary blessed hundreds of New York City students. 

My father’s father’s parents came from the Ukraine to escape the pogroms. One of their sons married my mother in 1932 after he changed his name from Weinfeld to Winfield to escape the anti-Semitism they found prevalent right here in the USA.

Think about your ancestry: our ancestors were immigrants or indigenous people or enslaved workers. Yet many of them blessed their families as they worked along with God.  The kingdom of God was and is at hand. 

As I prayed with today’s scriptures I kept thinking of Haitian immigrants being deported. My stomach turned. My eyes filled with tears. I remembered the filmmaker and author, a modern day St. Francis, Gerry Straub telling a big crowd in our parish of his conversion to love the poor.  He had been in on the ground floor of the television industry.  After producing what he called “mindless drivel” for “too many years” he left in despair.

Later, while on a film assignment in Assisi, he stopped into a church to simply rest his weary bones.  What next occurred in that holy place lifted his woes to blessings.  Gerry’s heart opened to want to spend the rest of his life addressing the needs of poor people.  Gerry epitomizes today’s Gospel.  He, who had been rich, received no consolation until he began filming with God’s compassion. He who had been filled with what he calls “garbage” was unsatisfied until he began writing with God’s compassion.  He who had been honored, awarded and well paid was hungry for meaning.  He found more than meaning as he fell in love with people in Haiti. He founded and directs a school for orphans in Haiti.

Gerry Straub has filmed people he loves in some of the poorest places on earth.  When climate catastrophe or war destroy crops and homes, or lawless groups rape and murder, people run for safety.  Jesus saying, “Welcome the stranger” (Mathew 25:31-46), resonates as we welcome people fleeing the most oppressive and inhumane conditions. We become a blessing as we face what we fear with faith. We heard today the weeping prophet Jeremiah pray, “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.” He said that in a time of great fear. He sensed his people were about to be invaded and exiled.  We are Jesus’ hands on earth; we live out his promise as we extend our hand in welcome.

My grandchildren and their friends are energetic; they try to make a positive difference; they want to make this a more just world.  Some are in graduate program internships doing intense work shared by classmates with that can-do, eager-to-learn and eager-to-serve attitude.

They address humanity’s needs with their specialized expertise.  Imagine them helping at the border.  Imagine seminaries and graduate schools training and supervising interns to help address the worst humanitarian crisis in history. They could transform detention centers into places of welcome or reunite families and locate relatives and sponsors. Jesus says, blessed are the poor, the hungry, those who are weeping. Families trying to cross to safety through the roiling waters of the Mediterranean or the Rio Grand need a blessed hand of help.   We are Jesus’ hands on earth.  St Teresa of Avila is among the saints who knew Jesus has no hands on earth but ours. Since it is up to us to be Christ’s hands, we extend a hand. 

At a local college’s student retreat I met a graduate student who volunteers at Mary’s Place Refugee Outreach where another local graduate program provides health screening and a School of Pharmacy sends students to work in clinics and to distribute food.  Many former Jesuit Volunteer Corps workers owe their blessed lives of service to their corps experience.  An Americorps volunteer trained Assumption’s Refugee Resettlement team through Catholic Family Center.  Our parish sponsors a family from Eritrea who needs safe affordable housing by May 31. If you have a lead on fair housing please let me know.

It is a blessing to address real woes.   We are baptized, confirmed and fed to be a blessing.

Denise Mack
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