Tuesday the 5th Week of Easter
Acts 14: 19-28, John 10: 1-10
“They strengthened the spirits of the disciples and exhorted them to persevere in the faith.” This phrase hit me like a breath of fresh air. Recently, we have been inundated with reports of people being demeaned and ridiculed and I found it refreshing to hear about people trying to build each other up. In the face of all the confusion in the world, we need to strengthen the spirits of the people we meet and encourage them to keep walking the path that will lead them to their heavenly homeland.
To strengthen someone’s spirit and to encourage the individual to keep walking, we need to enter into an open and frank conversation with them. Many people are angry and defensive because they have been hurt by society, or by the church, or their family members. In the face of this reality, they do not need to be condemned for their anti-social behavior. Rather, they need the ointment of compassion and empathy so that they can be healed of the hurt they have suffered. I am not naive, I know the process is messy, and it takes time, but it needs to be engaged in. Recall Pope Francis’s comment In Evangelii Gaudium (‘Joy of the Gospel’).
I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the center and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures. If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light, and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life. (EG,49)
When we deal with people who feel powerless, diminished, fearful, or insecure, we need to be compassionate, and patient. Reaching out to people in distress is risky and often daunting. No one ever said that Christian love would be easy. I came across a noteworthy comment attributed to Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper: “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” As the Barque of Peter, we need to set out from our safe harbors and search for people who have been cast adrift on the storm-tossed sea. “An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be” (EG,24).
Each one of us has been invited to live in Christ, to ground our lives firmly in his love. All the baptized need to be confirmed and rooted in the faith. Seeing the Word take root in the hearts of those we meet, we will rejoice to hear that he has opened the door of faith for them. Following the example of the apostles, may we strengthen the hearts of our brothers and sisters and be for them a light of hope as they continue their journey to the Father.