Thursday, November 17, 2011

Human Concerns: Is Anyone Scared?

     Last week, I had the blessing of attending the Red Mass, then immediately heading across town for proof positive of what I’d just heard in Bishop DiLorenzo’s homily, which served as a state of the union address for the Diocese of Richmond.  I hopped in the car after Mass to go to the biannual Human Concerns Core Team meeting at our parish. 
     I honestly can’t think of more inspiring, hope-filled evidence that Catholics in our Diocese are indeed in the trenches addressing the areas of suffering caused by our culture of death than attending this meeting.  Each person in attendance that evening is truly passionate about serving those in need as Christ served others: compassionately, selflessly, and with great love. 
     Though their ministries varied considerably as did their particular types of involvement, one thing remained clear: action, reflection, and transformation are powerful signs of the Holy Spirit working in and through them and the many they serve whether feeding the homeless, visiting the imprisoned, praying to end abortion, doing missionary work in Haiti, standing up for persons with disabilities, or giving underprivileged children a head start. 
    As reflection for the meeting, Bridget read the homily Fr. Michael Renninger had given at our parish the weekend of August 7th.
  I was very excited to hear the sermon, as those he’s given over the years have been some of my absolute favorites!  My mom had told me about the sermon since we’d had a different priest at the Mass we’d gone to that weekend. Click here to read the whole sermon. 
     Fr. Renninger began with a list of some of the major current problems in our culture: “Rising food prices. Unemployment. A broken educational system. Drug abuse. Abortion. A president who forced insurers to provide free birth control for everyone. Bankruptcies. Recessions.” Then he’d ask, “Is anybody scared?”
     “…Marriages that are struggling. Children that have not been taught basic manners. Young adults threating suicide. An epidemic of depression. Cancer. Disease. Addictions. People who have forgotten how to forgive, how to treat each other with basic respect. Blaming Republicans for everything. Blaming Democrats for everything. Blaming immigrants for everything. Blaming everyone else for your unhappiness.” Then he repeats: “Is anybody scared?”
     Fr. Renninger points out that: “It’s OK to be afraid. But we get into trouble when we allow our fears to control us. So the question tonight is – how is a Christian supposed to react when our world, our lives, get messy?”      
     The answer is one that Lord has reminded His disciples of a number of times: keep your focus on Jesus.  When we concentrate on the details of the mess around us, we’re likely to get bogged down.  When we focus on the person of Jesus Christ, we have hope, strength, endurance, joy, and peace to persevere. 
     I am still amazed how perfectly Fr. Renninger’s rundown of what’s wrong in our society and how to remedy it fits with the Bishop’s Red Mass sermon.  Though we’re threatened to be overwhelmed by the evidence of the culture of death all around us, we keep moving forward because we are lifted up by Christ. 
     I felt like celebrating at so much concrete evidence that Catholics in our parish are indeed in the trenches with the poor, the voiceless, the marginalized, the traumatized, the addicted, the afflicted, and the incarcerated.  We’re accepting God’s call and the gift of His courage to stop and take care of the person suffering rather than keep on walking, as the religious leaders in the story of the Good Samaritan did. 
     Lord, thank You for such amazing people You bring into our lives to serve, show us Your Presence and what it means to be Christ for others.  Help us to remained focused on You, so that Your glory is what matters most to us in time and eternity.  Amen.
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