Tag Archives: Evangelii Gaudium

Encountering the lowly

Do not be haughty
but associate with the lowly.
Romans 12: 16

 Today’s lectionary reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans (12: 5-16b) is full of extraordinary advice for us who seek to follow Christ. But it is the final verse that struck me, “associate with the lowly” partly because of my situation here and partly because that is what Pope Francis calls us to do.

Pope Francis has, from the start, called for a “culture of encounter” (The Joy of the Gospel [Evangelii Gaudium], ¶ 220).

Giving to the poor and even advocating for justice on their behalf are not enough. For, as Pope Francis also wrote in The Joy of the Gospel, ¶ 88:

…the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face to face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction. True faith in the incarnate Son of God is inseparable from self-giving, from membership in the community, from service, from reconciliation with others. The Son of God, by becoming flesh, summoned us to the revolution of tenderness.

We are called to encounter the lowly, to associate with them, because that is what Jesus has done. He became flesh to associate with the poor and the lowly, those at the margins.

Jesus normally does not heal from a distance but touches the sick, speaks with them, and calls them to new life.

This is not easy but it is possible when we open ourselves, as Pope Francis has noted, to encounter Jesus.

But it has to be personal.

In Bolivia Pope Francis spoke to the World Meeting of Popular Movements and noted the importance of this face-to-face solidarity:

As members of popular movements, you carry out your work inspired by fraternal love, which you show in opposing social injustice. When we look into the eyes of the suffering, when we see the faces of the endangered campesino, the poor laborer, the downtrodden native, the homeless family, the persecuted migrant, the unemployed young person, the exploited child, the mother who lost her child in a shootout because the barrio was occupied by drug-dealers, the father who lost his daughter to enslavement…. when we think of all those names and faces, our hearts break because of so much sorrow and pain. And we are deeply moved…. We are moved because “we have seen and heard” not a cold statistic but the pain of a suffering humanity, our own pain, our own flesh. This is something quite different than abstract theorizing or eloquent indignation. It moves us; it makes us attentive to others in an effort to move forward together. That emotion which turns into community action is not something which can be understood by reason alone: it has a surplus of meaning which only peoples understand, and it gives a special feel to genuine popular movements.

We can follow the example of these secular movements and join with them in real solidarity with the poor and humble, following in the footsteps of a God who became poor.

Today, fittingly, is also the feast of Saint Martin de Porres, the mixed-race Dominican lay brother who served the poor in Lima, Perú, and was known as “the father of the poor.” He is also the patron of social justice – a quite fitting reminder of the admonition of St. Paul to “associate with the lowly.”

Handing over

The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over.
John 13: 2

 I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread…
1 Corinthians 11: 23

 What does it mean to hand oneself over?

Many years ago I was struck by the word “hand over” which we find in Paul’s account of the Eucharist as well as in John’s account of the Last Supper.

For me handing onself over conveys a giving of oneself – into the hands of God – to respond in love to what God asks of us.

In the Spanish version of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, we find many uses of the Spanish word – entrega – although we might not notice it because, in one of the most moving passages, it is translated as “sacrifice.” But una entrega is a conscious decision to put oneself into the hands of God.

And so I offer this alternative translation from paragraph 269 of Evangelii Gaudium:

Jesus’ handing himself over on the cross is nothing else than the culmination of the way he lived his entire life. Moved by his example, we want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lives of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spiritually in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world. But we do so not from a sense of obligation, not as a burdensome duty, but as the result of a personal option which brings us joy and gives meaning to our lives.

And so, washing the feet of the apostles flows from a life given to handing Himself over to the Father, a life lived in love and service.

And so we ought to wash one another feet.

 

A hundredfold

When I discerned that God was calling me to Honduras in 2006, I had to get rid of a lot of things, although I still have stuff stored with friends.

I sold my house and my car. I sold or gave away books, furniture, and more. I left friends and a job that I enjoyed.

It was, however, not something heroic.

Pope Francis states it very beautifully in paragraph 12 of Evangelii Gaudium, The Joy of the Gospel:

Though it is true that this mission demands great generosity on our part, it would be wrong to see it as a heroic individual undertaking, for it is first and foremost the Lord’s work, surpassing anything which we can see and understand. Jesus is “the first and greatest evangelizer”. In every activity of evangelization, the primacy always belongs to God, who has called us to cooperate with him and who leads us on by the power of his Spirit.… This conviction enables us to maintain a spirit of joy in the midst of a task so demanding and challenging that it engages our entire life. God asks everything of us, yet at the same time he offers everything to us.

In today’s Gospel, Mark 10: 28-31, in response to Peter’s statement that he’s given up everything, Jesus tells the disciples:

there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age… and eternal life in the age to come.

As I have mentioned before, though there are lonely moments and times I wished I were closer to friends and cousins, I realize that I have a large family here (and on the internet).

This has been made clear in the last year. A couple made a large donation to make it possible for me to get a more reliable car to get around the parish. Another couple made an even larger donation to the Dulce Nombre parish; this will not benefit me but the parish and, wonder of wonders, is without conditions; the pastor decides how to use it.

I discerned last year that I’d like to move out to a village in the parish. I approached the Plan Grande church council who have been enthusiastic about my moving there. I had thought of buying land, but they offered some of the land around the church so that I could build a small house there (which will revert to the church when I  leave or die).

I continue to work with catechists and others in the parish and I feel very much at home with them. They are family – with all the joys and pains that families experience.

I am single, without children, which amazes many people here. But I feel as if I have lots of kids whom I love to play with when I visit the communities. It is not uncommon for me to be holding an infant.

That is part of the joy of mission – finding a larger family.

¡Gracias a Dios!