Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Pope Francis at World Youth Day

Today Pope Francis challenged Christians to reject the idols of money, power, and greed. How fitting for a priest who exemplifies such a simple lifestyle. St. Francis of Assisi used to say "Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words." Why are these idols so dangerous? They close our hearts to those we should be serving. In his book Hurt Healer: Reaching out to a broken world" Tony Nolan knows how those idols can negatively influence Christians. Citing research from the Barna group and Gabe Lyons' book Unchristian, Nolan knows the negative impressions Christianity has among young people today. Here are his words: "What's not a laughing matter is what's happening to a countless number of people in neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, and families across our country. It has to do with the pursuit of happiness. I have never met a person who does not want to be happy. And in their quests, I have seen them drive down the highway of happiness on the motorcycle of life only to be broadsided by the Mack truck of the devil. Jesus said in John 10:10 that the devil is a thief who comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. Satan loves to ambush humanity, and as a result there are millions of hurting people lying in the middle of the intersection of life, writhing in pain, drowning in a pool of their own emotional, mental, and spiritual blood-all bent out of shape. Victims of the ultimate relentless thug, they lie hemorrhaging with hurting hearts." Nolan goes on to cite the parable of the Good Samaritan. If we are in a hurry pursuing money, power, and greed we will not see the man lying on the side of the road to Jericho. They will pass right by. In chapter 7 he identifies the samaritan as a "hurt healer." "If we are to be hurt healers, let's look at the DNA of the guy who was formerly known as the Good Samaritan and is currently called the Hurt Healer (well, in my world anyway). There are three things this guy did that I want us to focus on: he paused for compassion, he proved he cared, and he paid the cost. I don't usually do alliterated outlines, but those three thoughts jumped out at me in my study of this guy....One of the reasons hurt healers make such a difference in someone's life is because they pause for compassion. I like to define compassion as simply "love in action." when hurt healers see a need, they put everything else on hold to engage the need. They exchange their to-do list for a must-do moment. The Samaritan was on a journey. He had something to do, people to see, places to go. But when he saw a man on the road who had been ambushed by thieves and was half dead, everything else had to wait. Nothing was more important to him than making sure the half dead guy was resuscitated. He put all other tasks on pause to show some love to a man who needed it. I like this guy. I like him a lot. The world would be a better place if there were more people like him. Maybe thats Jesus' point as well." In my own life I saw this lived in action at a mass at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. It was the final profession mass for Mother Teresa's sisters the Missionaries of Charity. The mass was presided by a Cardinal and there were many priests and, of course, Mother Teresa. During communion one of the residents of her homes, a blind man came up for communion. Before you could say Mother Teresa he fell on the marble and hit his head on the steps. He was bleeding. Everyone was sitting in stunned silence. Not Mother Teresa. Without blinking she rushed up, picked him up and aided him to the sacristy to get First Aid. She later came back to the mass. This is what the good samaritan did. This is what Tony Nolan spoke about. If we are chasing the idols of money, power, and greed, we probably will not have the time to stop and show compassion. In a mock interview based upon his imagination, Nolan speculates about what might have been going on in the mind of the Good Samaritan. Here are his words: "ME: Why was this guy someone you had a hard time helping? You didn't even know him did you? Hurt Healer: He was hard to recognize at first. But once I started cleaning him off I recognized him as the bully who used to beat me up almost every day and who rallied others to hate me as well. But I remembered what it felt like for me when I was lying there bleeding, crushed and hurting. I can't do to others as they have done to me. If I picked and chose those I will love, I'd feel filthy. I must love everyone-even those who have hurt me. ME: Wow! I am blown away. I'm such a loser; I would never do that. I would have run him over with my donkey. I would have finished him off and excused it as an act of mercy. I am so unlike you. But there is something in me that wants to be like you in every way. Thanks for being an example." Although this is the product of Nolan's imagination it is inspiring. We all want to meet Hurt Healers. There is a great story of Mother Teresa that illustrates this type of love. She went to a merchant begging for bread for her sisters. The man was a Muslim. He cursed her and spit in her face. She wiped off the spit and said "that was for my sins." Can my sisters still have some bread? The man was stunned. He said yes. Mother Teresa was able to turn the other cheek. She was able to love beyond hurt. In the book Come Be My Light Mother Teresa says: "Our particular mission is to labour at the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor, not only in the slums,but also all over the world wherever they may be." The author, Fr. Kolodiejchuk, the postulator for her cause, notes:"The poor and those who suffer most were the particular object of her love. She knew that only love, a love that has God as its origin and end, would give meaning and happiness to their lives. Like the Good Samaritan, through her immediate and effective service, she was intent on making God's love concrete to the poor in the desperate situations they encountered in their daily lives. Through her simple works of love, she wanted to help them live their lives with dignity and give them the opportunity to know God. the salvation and sanctification of the poorest of the poor or the salvation of souls thus meant for her an untiring effort to help everyone encounter God's infinite love, and having come to know Him, to love and serve Him in return thereby reaching the blessedness of heaven." This is the spirituality of "I Thirst." If we live as hurt healers, renounce the idols of money, power, and greed, we will bring love into the greatest dark corners of the world. Pope Francis is showing the way. Let's follow his example!

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