Lately we have had so much sadness in the USA. Racial unrest, hateful protests and more have made our country so sad. On August 21st, much of the US had an opportunity to witness a solar eclipse. It brought our nation together, if only for a few minutes, to witness an act of God. People flocked together from all over to take part in something that lasted all of two minutes and left feeling refreshed, whole and happy.
That was just before a hurricane slammed in southeastern Texas, the worst hurricane our country has seen since Katrina in 2005. I am encouraged that once again, many people came together and are still coming together to offer assistance, aid and most important, prayers for those in need.
In my little town on the prairie, we too have come together in support of a high school aged girl who was in a serious car accident. I knew her through my work at the school. Last night, there was a prayer service at her church and I was startled at how many had attended. The streets for two blocks around the church were filled with cars, as was the parking lot itself. Many came out in support of this gal and her family. Many lit candles, said prayers and wept as we all became one voice, our heartfelt prayers lifted up to heaven on her behalf.
What held my attention is how, during times of need such as this, no one is labeled. I'm not Catholic, you're not Lutheran, he isn't black, she isn't Asian...we are all ONE...ONE body in Christ. We all come together, with no thought of, "I'm better than you are!" We do simply what must be done, with no real thought of reward. we pray, we cry, we offer support, we show our love and concern for one another.
"Where two or more are gathered, there I am in the midst of them."
She looked shocked as her eyes widened. "Oh no!" she admonished, "I can't do that!"
"I fully respect that," I replied, "but you see, I am a member of the secular Franciscan order. We emulate St. Francis by living out his life in today's world. We pray often for peace and as he told his followers, 'preach the Gospel. Use words, if necessary.' I am simply carrying out his ministry."
She closed her Bible then, making an excuse as to why she needed to leave and hastily walked down the sidewalk to her car.
I walked into my house, crestfallen.
Labels. Why do we need them? Wasn't it her mission to also "preach the Gospel, using words if necessary," yet she had chosen another path.
"I can't do that!"I had heard those same words at my mother's memorial service after she had passed away. Those who were gathered were waiting for the minister of her own Jehovah's Witness congregation to arrive. Finally after almost an hour, I said a brief eulogy and sent the well-wishers away with a prayer. It was later that I found out the reason why the minister never showed up: it was because I was there. I, who am Catholic. My heart broke then as it did again after this visit.
I am not putting Jehovah's Witnesses down. In no way am I doing that. My point is this: if we are to have any peace at all in this sorry world, we MUST stop looking at others as if WE are superior to them.
"Those who exalt themselves shall be humbled, while those who humble themselves shall be exalted." (Matthew 23:12.)
We must remember that Jesus Himself showed us how to love one another. He Himself sat with the Samaritan woman at the well. He Himself told the story about the Good Samaritan. He Himself ate with tax collectors. He forgave sinners. He healed the sick. He raised the dead! He didn't need a special pardon from God to do any of that! He was God! And if God did it...then why can't we? Why can't we look at each other with eyes of love...and forgiveness...and tolerance? Why?
Going back to the time after His crucifixion, it was known as Christianity. Followers of Christ. Then 1500 years later, there were disagreements with the church, which by now had many "rules and regulations." Thus, a split, with that new following being known as "Lutheranism," or Protestants. Yet more disagreements lead to more breaking away. Each breaking away had issues with the previous breaking away. And so on..and so on...
And now, we have so much animosity, so much, "I'm the RIGHT way, while you..." followed by head shaking. Yet last night, here in my own small town on the prairie, PROVED that we can get along, we CAN all come together in prayer for someone in need, we can help each other out, we can because....
because Jesus taught us that He "IS the Way...and the Truth...and the Life. No one comes to the father except through me. He who follows Me shall have eternal life." (John 14:6) We don't need special permission, we just do it!
What a promise! What an ideal!
May you all be blessed today. Reach out to another....you don't need MY permission to do that!