December 1, 2013 A View from the Rectory Window

In our time together, I have not engaged in much political discourse. Perhaps I should do more? But today, is not that day.

I make these preparatory comments in light of our second collection, November 16 and 17, for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. Perhaps we are better positioned than others are to understand the enormity of the suffering associated with this natural disaster because of our own experience with Hurricane [‘Superstorm’] Sandy.

One thing that comes to my mind in light of Hurricane Sandy is that, as a people and nation, we did not ask, “Where is the foreign aid?” Yes, while there may be some speculation on how our own civil officials have responded, there is nothing that I can recall about an expressed disappointment in how other nations have assisted, or failed to assist, us. On the other hand, the expectation is manifest and clear, that we, as Americans, will always be numbered among the first responders to the victims of injustice and disaster. How much greater is this expectation for us who are Christians?

“See how they love one another”; these are the words Tertullian noted in the Third Century, as spoken by some of the Non-Christians of the time regarding Christian communities. The “love” they are referring to is the way in which the early Christian churches cared for each other, especially the poor. We know from reading Acts of the Apostles that many Christian communities shared their material possessions in common. They also shared freely with those in need who were not part of the Christian community. This was a powerful witness in the early church.

Despite periods of harsh persecution, the witness of generations of Christians living the “new commandment” of Jesus to “love one another,” helped the church to grow and spread across the Roman Empire, and led some to proclaim, perhaps with disbelief, “See how they love one another.” For the early church this was where the words of Christ and the needs of the real world met.

This practical spirituality is expressed by Peter when he says, “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve another as good stewards of God’s varied graces.” (1 Peter 4:10) The early church was living a spirituality which emphasizes that it is not so much that we do things for others but rather that God is doing something for others through us. Being aware of the difference between “for” and “through” changes our whole understanding of what it means to “love one another” and to be good stewards of God’s grace. This is where faith and real life meet.

Our lives ought to acknowledge God as Creator and Owner of all. This spirituality enhances our relationships with God and with one another. How easy it is to overly spiritualize conversion, thinking of it only as an inward, personal transformation. Conversion also entails a transformation of our interpersonal relationships and our interaction with our world. Just as the early church was a visible witness to the power of God’s love working through them, we, too, can become witnesses in today’s world by living Jesus’ words. “This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

The parish family of Saint Maximilian Kolbe contributed $4315.82 to the Church’s response to the needs of our sisters and brothers. I thank you for your witness to them and to me.

Fr. Pete