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Faith & the Real World Experience
By SISTER SHIRLEY ANNE BROWN
Pastoral Associate, Catholic Community of Morristown, Hammond & Rossie
I am struck by the time in which we are living with the real- life experiences that are inherent in it and the challenges to living as a Faith-filled person in this world. We have been bombarded by political campaigns and their continued fallout, locally and nationally, that grapple with issues such as healthcare, the spectrum of life, economy and global involvement and responsibility and yes, basic civility. We are surrounded by what appears to be a questionable economy and standard of living for all people. In our churches, we are getting ready to celebrate the season of Lent - 40 days in which we are challenged to right the things in our lives that keep us from loving our God and our neighbor. What do the two ‘seasons’ have to say to each other.
It causes me to wonder. I wonder what would happen if we once again focused on the life and dignity of each human person. I am not just talking about civility - that would be nice. I am talking about returning to seeing the dignity of each person as the foundation of a moral vision of society. I wonder what would happen if we once again operated from a belief that each of us has a right and a duty to participate in society; seeking together the common good and well-being of all especially the poor and the vulnerable. I wonder what would happen if we acted out of a belief that every person has a fundamental right to life and the right to those things required for human decency and that corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to one another, to our families and to the larger society.
I wonder. We Christians, as we enter our Lenten Season are challenged to put our lives aright - each of us together and in our Churches to refocus our footsteps on this earth so that our world is a better place and modeled on the footsteps of Christ. And yes, I wonder why we would not readily see that any person who is seeking to be faith-filled regardless of the religion’s name would not parallel their footsteps with ours as we seek the dignity of one another and the care of our world.
The Value in Community
By LT. SHAUN MCNEIL
There was a Canadian boy who had Asperger’s syndrome. That makes him a little different from others in his class where he is often left out, rejected, ostracized.
Yet for his 13th birthday, his mother wanted to throw a great party. So she sent invitations to all his classmates. The party was to be held at the local bowling alley on his big day. But no one showed up.
Devastated, his mother posted on social media what happened and asked if anybody who lived close to them would come bowling the next day. And if they lived further away, people could send her son a birthday greeting.
The response was overwhelming! He received more than 20,000 greetings, and the bowling alley was full. All there to celebrate the birthday of her teenage son.
Community. People coming together. Many of them strangers, but all wanting to be part of the celebration for this young man. He was so over the top with joy at seeing everyone and hearing from sports celebrities and even some movie stars!
His mother had sought out all the help she could get in a time of great need, and the community at large responded. What a blessing!
Solomon understood the value in community, of seeking out others for help. We can’t do life on our own, with all its complexities, instabilities, uncertainties; even day-to-day stress, anxieties, fears. We need one another to lift us up, encourage us, and help us with the many different situations we face daily. People we can call upon when in need.
And when people call on us, will we make ourselves available? We should because of Christ’s love for us and in us.
Shaun McNeil is a lieutenant with the Salvation Army in Ogdensburg and is a member of the Ogdensburg Ministerial Association which coordinates this column.
By LT. STACY McNEIL
‘Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city’ (Jeremiah 5:1)
Jeremiah just needed to find one person, in all of Jerusalem, who was honest and sought truth. One person who had remained faithful to God; who lived according to God’s will. One person who cared deeply for others – for God’s sake – and worshipped God alone.
Can you imagine, in God’s Holy City, that Jeremiah could??
‘The prophets are but wind and the word is not in them’ (Jeremiah 5:13).
Devastating! All God’s people had turned against them. Not one person to be found who had remained faithful. Would they repent and finally see the light? Surely they would come to realize their evil ways. Yet they seemed to love living in rebellion against God:
‘The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way’ (Jeremiah 5:31).
In only takes one person to make a huge impact on others. Jean Vanier (86 at the time of writing), a Canadian, founded ‘L’Arche’ (‘The Ark’) – now in 47 communities within 35 countries on five continents. ‘L’Arche’ communities are places or homes where people with and without intellectual disabilities can live and work together. They feel called to live in the way of the gospel, as family. A family of the poor, weak, challenged. A family that rises about prejudice and fear of difference. A family that finds meaning and dignity in the simple, humble gestures of daily living. A family centered around Christ.
One person – in this case, Jean Vanier. And there are many other ‘persons’ who impact the world in marvelous ways – in the name of Jesus. No matter the situation, will we be one person Christ can count on? Serving him faithfully, until the end? May it be so for each of us!
Stacy McNeil is a lieutenant with the Salvation Army in Ogdensburg and is a member of the Ogdensburg Ministerial Association which coordinates this column.