Reflection for Sunday – October 2, 2016

Readings: Habakkuk 1:-2-3. 2: 2-4; 2 Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14; Luke 17: 5-10.
Preacher: Deni Mack

A man said, “I thought I’d lost my faith until I saw what Sr. Norma is doing in McAllen, Texas.” Sr. Norma stirred his faith into flame.

Sr. Norma Pimental, MJ (Missionaries of Jesus) spoke at Nazareth College recently as part of the Msgr. Shannon lecture series. As director of Catholic Charities, Rio Grande Valley, TX, she shared horrific stories of violence forcing refugees to flee for their lives. We gasped at hearing of a Guatemalan woman who saved her daughter from attackers as she was being brutalized with a machete. The woman’s hand is forever maimed.

We saw the video of Pope Francis Skyping Sr. Norma and praising her vital work. In that video an 11-year-old girl tearfully told Pope Francis, “My mother cries all the time.” One year later, Sr. Norma revealed to us that the girl’s mother had been raped, repeatedly.

Violence, strife and discord are prevalent in our world. Centuries ago, the prophet Habakkuk complained to God about the violence, strife and discord in his world. Habakkuk wanted God to intervene. And God did. Isn’t it God’s Spirit who acts in Sr. Norma and the 400 people who clapped and cried and smiled with our Skyping Pope Francis celebrating their work among refugees?

God is intervening, confronting, challenging and preventing violence, strife and discord through each person or group sending supplies and/or volunteers to help refugees. A donor sent a dozen portable showers. Holy practicality! Pope Francis had showers for Rome’s homeless installed at the Vatican. Recall he also brought five refugee families to the Vatican to live. He practices what he preaches and models for us what needs to be done.

In concern for Europe’s refugee crisis, the worst since World War II, our pope calls each faith community to sponsor and welcome a refugee family.
The prophet Habakkuk shares God’s vision for humanity—“the rash one has no integrity; but the just one, because of his faith, shall live.” We are each called and gifted with unique ways of prayer, donations, and support of those walking that advocacy journey to save a family from deportation to certain harm or death. Some will encourage their faith community to call Catholic Family Center and begin the sponsorship process and support Saints Place and Mary’s Place who provide so richly and with such practicality for refugee’s needs.

Our parish is ready for a family. We have not had a refugee family to sponsor in four years and while we remain friends with that family we are ready to say, “yes” to Pope Francis’ plea. We agree with him that if every faith community sponsors a refugee family the crisis will be resolved.
And we can pray for faith communities who fear the task is too great.

Each of us senses from time to time that we haven’t enough faith. Again today, Jesus reminds us that if our faith is as small as a mustard seed, we can still do amazing things. After all, God is intervening in and through us; we do not serve on our own.

Our second reading from Paul to Timothy needs to start one verse sooner than our lectionary prints. 2 Timothy—chapter one, verse five—tells us Timothy caught his faith from his mother and grandmother, Lois and Eunice. As we resonate with these exemplars in passing on the faith we too stir the flames of our faith and live our faith. No matter how small we fear our faith is.

Our readings today challenge us to trust in the potential for amazing things done in faith. No cowardice, rather, the power of love shows in the witness of Sr. Norma as she tells of the Border Patrol, two years ago calling her and asking her to meet them and refugees at the bus station; her experience of Border Patrol, then and now, is positively concerned for these families who come to them for help. Sacred Heart parish immediately, opened its doors and heart to help around the clock.

For two years Sacred Heart’s fellowship hall/gym has been full of refugees. Still, 200 refugee families who have asked for asylum are brought to Sacred Heart, daily. They never have enough lawyers to accompany the refugees at their deportation hearings. Sr. Norma wept as she spoke of people being deported back to certain harm or death.

It is tempting to question our faith when we hear of troubles like this. Today’s scriptures remind us to ask for faith and act in faith. We are promised a spirit of love.

Denise Mack