Reflection for Sunday – July 3, 2016

Readings: Isaiah 66:10-14c; Galatians 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

Preacher: Sr. Grace Miller

“The harvest is rich but the laborers are few, therefore, ask the harvest-master to send workers into his harvest.”

Immediately, what comes to my mind are the words of Catherine McAuley,
the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, who urged her Sisters to, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Go out quickly….The poor need help today, not next week.”

This was 1831, early in the history of the Sisters of Mercy, when Catherine
McAuley made a commitment to reach out to the poor, sick, homeless, dying and uneducated in Dublin, Ireland. Today, we hear the same cry from Pope Francis:

“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. I see the church as a field hospital after battle…You have to heal the wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds. Heal the wounds….”

Luke continues, “Be on your way and remember. I am sending you as lambs in the midst of wolves.” Why is Luke saying this? What is the message?
If we search our hearts, we will know what it is God is calling us to do. God
is telling us to get ready for what is ahead of us, because it won’t be easy.
How many times in the Gospels, does Jesus tell us, “Be not afraid?”

Wherever we go, Jesus goes with us. Three times, Jesus asks Peter, “Peter, do you love me?” Peter responds, “Master, you know I love you.” Peter doesn’t know why Jesus keeps repeating the same question. Then Jesus says, “Feed my sheep.” In other words, Peter will suffer much to shepherd God’s sheep.

In Acts 20:28-31, Paul sends word to the church of Ephesus: “Keep watch over yourselves, and over the whole flock the Holy Spirit has given you to guard. Shepherd the church of God…. I know that when I am gone, savage wolves will come among you who will not spare the flock….”

These words from Scripture from Pope Francis, from Catherine McAuley call to my mind the plight of the homeless in our own city. For years, 50 to I00 “hard to place” homeless found refuge in the heated downtown Civic Center Garage. Then suddenly, the county authorities ordered the homeless to be evicted from their only place of comfort and safety. At that moment, were not the homeless the “lambs” in the midst of “savage wolves?”

But who will comfort them? Who will “shepherd” them. Who will “labor”
for them? They have nowhere to go. That night, many of them slept outside
because they had no place to go. I know personally that some left the garage hungry and were denied beds at a shelter. Who really cared? Where were the voices of protest from the churches, the church leaders, the church “faithful,” the wealthy businesses who had empty buildings all around the city that could have been offered—but weren’t? Where were the agencies who were supposed to be helping them? Where were the “laborers” Jesus calls for in Luke? Where was the “harvest-master?”

Those of us who became involved reached out to the county authorities. Our cries fell on deaf ears. We reached out to the churches. Silence! We reached out to the businesses. No response. What happened to the Corporal Works of Mercy we are all called to live: “I was hungry and you gave me to eat…I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me….”

In Exodus 3:7, we hear Yahweh: “I have seen the misery of my people in
Egypt. I have heard their cries….and I have come to rescue them.” These are not just words. This is a cry to action—to reach out to the wounded, the
suffering, the rejected, the outcasts, the abandoned, the forgotten.

What is being demanded of us? To do what Yahweh did! To do what Jesus
did! To leave our comfort zones and reach out to our sisters and brothers in
need. We hear the voice of the Holy Spirit within us, although we often try to muffle that voice, Go! Go to the person in miserable need and comfort
him or her. Go! Change the structures of government that oppress and
imprison our poor. Go! Feed the hungry! Shelter the homeless! Visit the
sick and imprisoned! Bury the dead with dignity! And if in doing this,
people call you “crazy,” so be it. They called Jesus “crazy,” too.
Pope Francis urges us, “Reach out in love to all of God’s creation.”

I remember so well when the homeless were still in the Civic Center Garage, threatened with eviction. It was a brutal winter night, a heavy blizzard hit our area. We were warned to stay home, no unnecessary traveling.

I knew the homeless at the House of Mercy were all right. We made sure of
that and I felt good about it. I was beginning to get comfortable when a
sudden and disquieting thought struck me! What about the homeless still
outside? What about the homeless in the garage? Are they still there? Have
they been put out? I thought, “I better go and check them out.” But then
reality (and “common sense?”) hit me! “There’s a blizzard out there. I can’t
go out. I could have an accident or even be killed. Besides that, we are being warned not to go out. It’s too dangerous out there. You better not go. You better play safe. If people know what you’re thinking of doing, they’ll call you “crazy.” Jacob wrestling with the Angel had nothing on me. My
wrestling with the Spirit was another matter!

My inner voice kept saying, “Go! You are comfortable, but the homeless are not! Go! Go! Go! So, I gave up the battle, got in my car and drove in the storm, looking for homeless outside. I found none. Then I reached
the garage. Thank God, the homeless were there, but they were hungry, thirsty, in need of blankets, gloves, socks, boots, etc. It suddenly dawned on me that I had brought nothing with me! What was I thinking?

I called the House of Mercy and asked staff to bring all the food, blankets, socks, etc. that we had. I expected them to say I was crazy for venturing out that night. But nothing of the kind. They immediately came loaded with all the necessary supplies. To see the joy and gratitude of the homeless was all that we needed. To know they were warm and comfortable warmed our hearts and gave us comfort. Thank you. Lord! That night, I could rest in peace.

To hear God’s word is a heavy responsibility.

Sr. Grace Miller, RSM
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