Dorothy Day, co-founder of the
Catholic Worker Movement is certainly a saint of our time. She was a woman of
deep faith in God and great love and compassion for others, especially for the most needy.
Her love and her faith made her courageous in fighting for truth, justice, peace. Because of her work, she was shot
at, jailed several times, constantly investigated by the FBI. People used
to say to her, “You are a saint.” But she would reply, “Don’t
call me a saint. I don’t want to be dismissed that easily.” She had a point. We tend to place saints
on pedestals or in stain glass windows, but then distance ourselves from their actions.
Dorothy Day did not want to be praised for what she did; she wanted people to catch fire and do the same. She felt that when people called her a saint, it meant that the hard decisions and the hard work was somehow
easy for her, and so left her to do it. And she knew that we are all called to
be saints, that is, to have a deep faith in God and a great love for our neighbor. We may not have the deepest faith or the
greatest love, but we can all at least try to do “small things with great love, ordinary things with extraordinary love,”
as Bl. Teresa of Calcutta put it, because we do have faith in God and we do have love in our hearts.
I think that the four young men
in today’s Gospel qualify as saints. I think that they had the great love
and deep faith that I am speaking about, even if it was only for this one instance.
The story speaks for itself.
First of all, what love these
four men had for their friend! Or was he their friend? The Gospel does not say so. Maybe, he was a neighbor, or a
stranger, a beggar, or homeless. No matter.
These men were willing to risk contagion and carry him through the streets. Since
the entrance was blocked, they were bold enough to carry him up the outside stairs to the roof. They were bold enough to pull aside twigs and leaves, probably scattering a good part on the people below. What if the people made an outcry? They
didn’t care. They were determined to do anything to lay this wounded man
at the feet of Jesus. That is how much they loved and cared for him.
And this is where their deep faith
comes in. First, they believed that Jesus would not reject him. Even though they disturbed his teaching, they believed that Jesus would stop everything and cure his paralysis. What was the paralysis? Physical? Psychological? Spiritual? That didn’t matter either.
They believed in Jesus and in Jesus’ healing power. They believed that
Jesus would break the bond that held him down. Hence, this boldness born of great
love and deep faith.
And, in the presence of that love
and faith, Jesus did respond, and let everyone know that He was healing this man through and through to his very soul.
So, yes, these four young men
are saints for their time and for our time. Through their great love for a paralyzed
man and their deep faith in Jesus they became a bridge between paralyzed humanity
and our constantly healing God in their community. Oh, if only more young men
and women had the love and faith of these four! And where did they get this love
and faith from? Their parents? Their
religious instruction? Their synagogue community? What is significant is that
they did get it and that they acted together. They were a loving faith community of four.
Our St. Mary of the Angels Community
is small too. But, there is a Jamaican expression which describes you well (but
which only the Jamaicans here can fully appreciate.) “Oonu sma’ but
oonu tallawah.!” Which means something like, “You are small but you
are powerful beyond measure!” In this community there are many saints,
people of great love and deep faith. Out of love members of this community are
constantly reaching out to those in need from the youth to the elderly, from the hungry to the homeless. You also want those most in need, most weighed down with problems, to meet Jesus and be touched by Jesus
and healed by Jesus according to their needs. You, too, are bridges between paralyzed
humanity in this area and our God who, in Jesus, wants to heal.
Maybe the ratio is about
four to one. When it comes to helping people, it probably takes four caring people
to help one wounded. Jesus needed to gather disciples, Dorothy Day gathered co-workers, Bl. Teresa of Calcutta
gathered sisters. The leaders of this community keep seeking and inviting others
to join in loving and caring for the needy of our wider neighborhood. God wants
St. Mary of the Angels, always, to be a bridge of grace in Roxbury. God needs
more “everyday” saints doing ordinary things with extraordinary love, -- together.
God needs more saints of great love and deep faith, because it is only by deepening our own faith and exercising our
own love that we can help people see and believe that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, continues to do “that new
thing” which Isaiah prophesized, and which is nothing less than the kingdom of God, a kingdom of truth, justice, and
peace, present in our community.
Kenneth J. Hughes, SJ
Cambridge, Mass. 2/22/09