If you stand outside in the rain with your guitar and sing, men will scoff and dismiss you for a fool. But if you do it for love, they will cheer and perhaps even join you. If you stop traffic and block commerce to make yourself known, men will revile and dismiss you for a miscreant; but if you do it for love, they will bear with you and perhaps even help you.
Now, from my place overseeing the center of the life of the parish, I can sit and marvel at the astonishing things that I behold, and ask myself what motivates such wonders of human behavior.
Last week you brought to our pews and school an astonishing quantity of food (2,242 lbs). Once boxed, it seemed a mountain, not only to me, but also to the men from the Capital Area Food Bank who came with their truck to collect it. I could commend you just for generosity, but I think that would leave out something essential.
I look at not only the number, which has grown quite significantly in Lent, but also the affectionate, often wordless, mutual regard of people who rise before dawn and participate in the 6:30 weekday Mass before racing off to their day's obligations. I watch the prayerfulness and interaction of surprisingly many parishioners large and small, new and old, who have been praying the Stations of the Cross the past two Friday evenings, and enjoying one another's company at the simple supper in the MSR before or after.
Tuesday evening, Bishop Martin Holley was here to confirm sixty-four of our young people. Their sponsors, family members, friends and neighbors filled the church for the long ceremony. I noticed the altar servers, students themselves out on a school night when doubtless they had work of their own to be doing. But they manifested such care for the Mass, such respect for the bishop, and such joy in seeing the Spirit poured into those young lives, I was moved to pride – but I hope the good kind.
Last week I was handed an article from the Wall Street Journal admiring the life-giving and nurturing aspects of life in religious communities; the fellowship and support, the rituals and relationships. The author speculated that surely the expertise and methods of these religions could be harvested and applied to benefit and enhance the lives of modern souls who have moved beyond faith to an informed secularism. His prescriptions, many lifted from his observation of the life of our Church, were plausible and attractive, up to a point.
The point beyond which his proposal could not pass is the simple but urgent question of why. People will do many things with one another and for one another and even for a cause. But people, real people, will not make themselves vulnerable for the sake of a group or idea.
Here among us, however, vulnerability underlies even the simplest daily act we do. One is willing to be wounded, to pay a price of one's own dignity and identity, for one motivation, and one alone: love. We have seen God's vulnerability poured out in the life of His Son. Called to respond, we extend the acts of love that ordinarily would reach no further than family, or friends, to strangers near and far, who are neighbor to us. Uniting our common life is more than shared purpose, more than a desire for company. Our hearts are willing to be wounded, for we are in communion with the pierced heart of God Himself, who is Love.