Saturday, May 10, 2014

Who Can Accept It?

“Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and make your bed.”  He got up at once.  And all the inhabitants of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.  Acts 9:34-35

Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?”  Since Jesus knew that his disciples were murmuring about this, he said to them, “Does this shock you?”  John 6:60-61

No matter how hard the message, help us take the first step every day to follow the Word.

Individually and in groups, people have different reactions to Jesus and the Word.  Some have their eyes opened and become followers.  Others see the message as too hard and return to their comfortable way of life.

Peter carried on the tradition of miracles in the name of Jesus by healing Aeneas and bringing Tabitha back from the dead.  They and others used these signs as inspiration to follow Jesus and grow the church community. 

However, others who were blessed to have a direct encounter with Jesus did not follow his Word.  They witnessed not only the miracle of feeding the five thousand but also heard the discourse on the bread of life.  Finding it hard to understand and hard to put into practice, they rejected the message – foreshadowing the famous comment by G.K. Chesterton:  “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” (What's Wrong with the World)

We are really not very different from the early followers of Christ.  Some of us find it easy to pick up our cross daily and others find it hard. 

What do you find difficult in following the Word?  Doing it every day in the face of the deluge of messages in popular culture is one of my biggest challenges. One day per week, most of us go to church and hear the message and are strengthened by the community presence, the Word and the Eucharist. Six days a week, we might spend a little more time in study and prayer or group reunion or doing the works of mercy. 

In contrast, on a daily basis, we are inundated with advertising, music, movies, news and economics that celebrate the individual rather than the community, which preach consumption, not sacrifice. However, the lesson of the bread of life is to feed each other, not to hoard what is good for ourselves. This is seen by some as a cultural contradiction even greater in modern society than in ancient, Roman-occupied Palestine.

We are called to solidarity with the whole community even more today than yesterday.  Those of us with plenty are called to offer the bread of life we share with those who are excluded from the economic and technical progress which can make their lives better.

One way to do that would be to make a gift to support Operation Starfish.  This was a charity founded by the late Rev. Richard B. Martin, former pastor at Nativity Church in Burke, VA.  Fr. Martin died last week and was laid to rest yesterday.  However, as his spirit and commitment live on in those he touched, you can help and honor his memory by sharing with Operation Starfish, a program that seeks to build homes for people in Haiti.

According to its website, the story of Operation Starfish® began in 1998 with a late evening stroll by a man and his dog.  Father Martin and his pooch, “Pete,” were walking one night before Lent “chatting” about “what-ifs.”  What if each family in the parish would forego one order of french fries?  What if they would subtract one topping from their weekly pizza?  How much money could they raise to help those who are less fortunate?

Fr. Martin couldn’t believe the numbers when he calculated them: 2,500 families saving just 50 cents a day for the 40 days of Lent could donate $50,000 to make a difference in the lives of the poor.  What a significant result from such an insignificant sacrifice!

A fact sheet explains that this simple program of sacrifice was far more successful than Fr. Martin predicted.  The parish was enthusiastic when the idea was presented to them.  That first year, Church of the Nativity raised over $67,000!  They decided to use the funds to build 27 simple houses in Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, working through the international Christian charity, Food for the Poor, Inc.

You can support this effort today by donating online through Food for the Poor or sending checks made out to "Operation Starfish®" to: Church of the Nativity, 6400 Nativity Lane, Burke, Virginia 22015.  For assistance with donations, contact

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