Saturday, August 9, 2014


Watching the news, one cannot help but feel helpless.  Everywhere in the Middle East, hell seems to be unleased on Earth. And it seems all we can do is read the news, watch the videos and howl with them.  We are not there. We cannot stop these people from doing evil things like isolating fleeing villagers and leaving them out on a mountain exposed to chose between death by deprivation or death by beheading if they try to return.  We cannot stop the beheading of children.  We cannot stop the crucifixion of whoever they decide to crucify. We get to simply watch as the world turns mad. 

Driving downtown, one cannot help but feel helpless, as every corner with four lights has a person, sometimes two, with a sign.  "Help.  Homeless." and a cup.  Some look sicker than others. Some look slicker than others.  But all of them are asking the same thing.  Help.  You fish for a quarter or a dollar, it doesn't seem to be sufficient, and yet we cannot figure out what would be.  How could we feed them properly? 

We can give to the pantry and to charities, we can pay our taxes, and still, there is a ocean, everywhere we look, of need.  Physical need.  Emotional need.  Spiritual need.  It is small wonder, most of us now look to keep ourselves inside, to stay on news sites that do not make us squirm, to visit virtually, so we need not minister physically.  In an age of instant and constant communication, of 24-7 news and 24-7 capacity to reach out, we are filtering everything to let the least amount in possible and still consider ourselves connected.

There is a grave temptation, when we see need after need after need, to stop and say, it is too much. We only have these five loaves, these two fishes.  Worse, it is true. We only have these cisterns of water. We are out of wine. We only have this nothing in the desert.   But if we give what we have.  If we do what He tells us.  If we but ask, the 5000 will be fed, the water becomes wine, there is manna in the desert. 

How do we offer up our loaves and fishes and our water filled cisterns?   How do we give in the desert to help those so far away? 

Begin small.  It is how God works, so it should work for us. 

1) Surrender one little pleasure a day in solidarity with those who do not have such a luxury.  It can be diet coke. (Yes that's a big one for me)  Chocolate, television, the internet, just something and it can be a different thing each day, but give it up.

2) Pray.  Today's readings talked about having faith the size of a mustard seed.  If we did, we could move mountains.  Let's move a mountain of hearts.  Pope Francis has called for people to simply pray for the displaced people of Iraq.  We're being shown on all sides, the desperate need for prayer.  If you need reminders (and who doesn't), I recommend Pray More Novenas.  You get an email every day of the Novena with the prayers.  Read and you've given that little bit.  But they aren't always happening, so if you want something for every day, I recommend the Magnificat. It would be a better source for me if I didn't inevitably lose it somewhere during the second week of the month before finding it in the fourth, but it's still excellent.  The third one I'd recommend, and these are all different, so they have different appeals, is the 3 Minute Retreats.  It's a gentle way to engage daily in just a touch of reflection. 

3) Give.  Just like the other two, which are only small things, 3 minutes, one thing a day, give something.  Give it daily.  I don't care if it's a dollar to one beggar --learn his name so you can say "Hey John Chase" when you see him, but give.  A can to the food pantry a day, 7 days a week, brought at mass, is a gift a day, and cumulatively, they add up.

The goal is to build a mountain of mustard seeds.

What inspired this post? Simcha Fisher's excellent reflection on what we are called to do.  Catholics are supposed to always be both and, feeding the belly and the heart, both bread and wine and the body and blood, we are always supposed to be more than the minimum.  So now,  go.  Do.  

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