Complete the circle
By George Evans
I presume many of you are enjoying your Thanksgiving leftovers as your paper arrives on Friday or Saturday after the Thursday holiday. What a great secular feast to celebrate with family and friends, particularly those from out of town. Food abounds to the point of excess. Perhaps wine is chosen to help wash down and digest what is eaten.
Patriotism fills the air – pilgrims and Indians and the early days of this special country and the blessings which have seen America grow and prosper perhaps more than any other country in the world.
Because of the traditional atmosphere in America we not only thank family and friends but also the God of our belief. There may be a few less believers than in the past (at least that’s what we are told), but those who know God as their creator and friend experience a very special gratitude at Thanksgiving as they reach for one more piece of turkey or one more spoon of dressing, green bean casserole, baked sweet potato with marshmallow topping, or cranberry just to make it all better.
As we think of how blessed we are because of America’s seemingly special place in the world, the conversation around the table may divert for a while to the problems of hurricanes, floods, power outages, terrorist attacks and inconceivable mass killings. Someone may even ask God to do something about all that and remind us that we have been faithful to providing a great meal to all the homeless folks at Gateway and other soup kitchens and food banks and doubling our contributions to our favorite charities such as St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Charities or any number of other worthwhile organizations. There may even be a strong supporter of Catholic Relief Services or Bread for the World who chimes in.
About the time pecan pie, apple pie or ice cream is served with coffee, the absolute disaster on the national political scene is broached. After some wailing and gnashing of teeth and some cries for impeachment of Trump or indictment of crooked Hillary, the group decides that’s a little too big for us to solve but it sure needs God’s help even more than hurricanes, floods and terrorists.
We end our secular feast of Thanksgiving by deciding that what we need is more spiritual. We need to ask God’s involvement to increase rather than decrease (more prayer for him to send the Spirit to make each of us better). We need to read the Gospels more receptively and to follow them, even the tough parts about reaching out to the poor, vulnerable and those who are widows, orphans and refugees. Next year maybe we should invite some folks from the highways and byways to dinner with us and see what they can add as St. Luke and Pope Francis suggest.
We love America and our family and friends so much we want to save it. To do so, I think we better embrace the whole world around us by loving as Jesus taught us to love before its too late.
(George Evans is a retired attorney and pastoral minister. He lives in Madison and attends Jackson St. Richard Parish.)
Complete the circle
By George Evans
As I write this the calender has turned to May. My grandchildren are anxious for school to end for the year, for the approaching piano recital to hurry up and get here and for the swimming pool to open. Everything outside is green and fresh. We continue our journey on the road of holiness as adults.
What do we do on our journey? We are well into the Easter season. The daily readings in the liturgy excite us with the stories of Stephen, the first martyr of the early Church, of Peter, John and Paul and the other disciples who have seen the risen Lord and proclaimed him despite the punishments and threats of the ruling civil authorities. Our faith is renewed because the risen Lord has touched us again and taken away our greatest fear, death. He has assured us he is always with us. He has challenged us to take the message he has given us to the ends of the earth and promises us the strength to do it through him.
So, what do we do in “the good ole summertime” having been fortified and blessed and called to holiness and mission. We pray. We open ourselves to the Lord of the Paschal Mystery we have recently celebrated. We plead for mercy from the God of all mercy. We acknowledge our sinfulness confident of his forgiveness. We do this every day so that our tendencies to revert to self to the exclusion of others is shielded. We seek summer Eucharist to feed on the sustenance of the Lord himself under the appearances of bread and wine and thereby be strengthened to face whatever trials, tribulations or challenges that come our way. Because prayer allows us to touch divinity our summer journey is on its way.
Related to prayer, summertime is a great time for reading good stuff. We may even find reflection in a way that surprises us. Helpful in this pursuit may be any of the daily books which include scripture and reflections to get us started on our own. Living Faith, Give Us This Day, Living with Christ are my favorites but there are many others. Choose that which best excites your own reflection and be on your way to wonderful daily growth in holiness. Summer is also a good time for reading longer spiritual works. There are thousands. Contemporary authors I find helpful and stimulating on my journey are, among others, Fathers James Martin, SJ, Henri Nouwen, Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, and the last three Popes. Many “secular” authors bring incredible “spiritual” insights to novels and short stories. Anthony Doerr’s Pulitizer Prize Winning “All the Light We Cannot See” knocked me over.
Summer brings terrific opportunities for workshops, mission training, retreats, etc. for help on our journey of holiness. I mention three of them sponsored by our diocese and commented on further on pages 8-9 of this issue of Mississippi Catholic. 1. June 8-9 Liturgical Music: Ministry Encounters Mystery. Alexis Kutarna, director of music for St. Mary Seminary, Houston, Texas, featured presenter. 2. Pastoral Ministries Retreat and/or workshop, “Living as Missionary Disciples” June 5-8. 3. Faith Community Nursing: training specifically for registered nurses. These and other opportunities to connect faith with work, faith sharing or teaching opportunities are valuable avenues to enhance our journeys of holiness.
After replenishing ourselves in all of the above ways (or at least some of them) we are ready to take our nurtured holiness into the marketplace as challenged by the Lord and Pope Francis so to do. We may not be called to bring his message to Africa or the Far East in order to be holy, but we are called to leave self to bring Christ to others every day by the way we treat every one, be they friend or foe, rich or poor, gay or straight, powerful or on the fringes. Whether they are in prison or free, sick or healthy, ugly or attractive, good are bad.
Our journey to holiness leads us to love all as we have been loved first by the Lord. “The good ole summertime” of this type journey will do more than a week at the beach (as important as it may be) to make us whole and happy. It may lead to more members/volunteers for prison ministry, St. Vincent de Paul, Knights of Columbus, Habitat, ushers, etc. Funny how God always works and provides.
(George Evans is a retired pastoral minister from Jackson St. Richard Parish.)