Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Let Us Love One Another

January 4, 2011
Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton

By Beth DeCristofaro

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is of God; … In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. (1 John 4:7, 10)
When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. … He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” (Mark 6:34, 37)

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.
The mountains shall yield peace for the people,
and the hills justice.
He shall defend the afflicted among the people,
save the children of the poor.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth. (Psalm 72:3-4, 7-8)

Lord, every nation on earth will adore you. These words have new significance for me as I recently traveled to Egypt. I am reminded of the many ways that humans try to get closer to God. We toured temple ruins in which ancient Egyptians depicted their offerings to divinities. We talked with Christian Copts with whom prayed in a beautifully decorated church in an extremely poor neighborhood before taking us to visit some of the children they help with the basic needs of survival. We attended Christmas Mass – in Italian – at a Franciscan parish. We viewed a country, more than 80% desert, in which people proudly struggle to live and cherish their families. The daily call to prayer from the thousands of Mosques gave me a reminder to say a brief prayer several times each day. We saw the improbably wondrous creations that are camels! God manifests in so many ways. God’s generosity in being present to us – throughout human history- is all around us.

This isn’t to say that I was able to completely realize Julian of Norwich’s observation that “The fullness of joy is to behold God in everything.“ In fact, this trip took me out of my comfort zone and these readings speak to some of my discomfort. God’s generosity and willingness to love astounds me. I often do not understand just as the disciples did not understand Jesus’ request to feed the 5,000 people. My love is so very limited. When I’m asked for a donation or a handout I want to know what it is for. I want to know that the questioner is honest. I calculate how much is in my pocket (or bank account) and add a safety pad to that amount because I might need something. God did not require those answers but instead loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Jesus did not question the integrity of the multitude. No, instead Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them.

But what these readings do is give me hope. God’s love remains present and available for me and for all those who are hurting. I can continue to open myself to the Spirit’s promptings and grow into loving more generously. I can join with all those around the world who adore God and live into the vision of the Psalm.

Sometimes the incredible needs of the world get me down. There are so many more than 5,000 who are hungry. There are so many who are unemployed or underemployed. There are so many who are caught in conflicts which threaten to destroy their lives or sanity. I am in an “Engaging Spirituality” group in which I hope to contemplate: What one small act of generosity can I add to this New Year? What one resolution can I make that can help me grow in loving more lavishly? What can you do?