Patrick Walsh

For those who try to discover Jesus, we can find the journey provides so much joy and consolation even when punctuated with times of desolation, as Ignatian tradition puts it. Often in understanding his path for our own lives, we can be presented with more questions than answers, especially related to our relationship with those who seem to present a danger to the people and ideals we hold most dear.

One thing I have learned about Jesus is that his massive and joyous love extends to everyone. He holds us all most dear. And his practical application of love came from a place of infinitely wide concern for all his people, although it’s hard to miss the special place that children, the poor and the oppressed, have in his heart.

Given the current climate of our region, I think Christ’s completeness can be a compelling mediation for our moment. There can sometimes be an unhelpful fervor with which we all want to highlight those aspects of our faith that we feel are most overlooked by those with opposing perspectives. Those who disagree with us on how to live out our faith can seem like enemies.

But what if we took a cue from Jesus and saw first the sacredness and beauty of those we disagree with? What if we desired in our leaders not a mirror of our own little consciences, but someone with a heart wide enough to welcome the entire breadth of the Gospel? Someone who could ensure Christ’s indiscriminate, lavish and unconditional love could reach everyone, especially those most vulnerable, oppressed and resented?

What would that community of faith look like?  What kind of leaders would make that celebration of the heart of the law a reality? What blessings would be heaped on the generation that grows up in such a church?

Christ never asks us to live in our past, regretful of missed opportunities and frustrations. His command is always to conversion, to the present moment, oriented to heaven. It is easy to be lost in anger and hurt. Good anger is only there to tell us that something needs to change. We are the vehicles of God’s love, and we can change the effects of where God’s love has been stifled, rejected or twisted.

The Spirit is moving in a strong way in our region. Maybe you have also felt it. I see it in the faces of people in our community, renewed by the love of their neighbors, by loving their neighbors in turn, by the many graces of God.  I see it in the efforts of bold workers who strive to make the world a better place. I see it in miracles too numerous to count.

One gentleman came to our food pantry over a year ago in need of an urgent major organ transplant. My colleagues and I prayed for him, but his demeanor and appearance diminished drastically with each month.  Then I didn’t see him for a long time and I quietly mourned his loss. This spring he arrived with a radiant face and a beautiful painting of a waterfall on a canvas that he had stretched himself. I hung it in the waiting room and every time I see it, I continue to marvel at the power of God and the faith of this man.

Now is the time to build a community of faith rooted in the words and deeds of the Savior of the world. Now is the time to let go of our wounds and baggage. Now is the time to love people whom we feel work against us. Now is the time to be humble when we want to lash out, and to act boldly when we want to avoid rocking the boat.  Now is the time to pray like we have never before.

Now is the time to welcome the Spirit of God who is beating on the doors of our hearts. We need only to open them.

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Patrick Walsh manages Martha’s Choice Marketplace, a choice model food pantry at Catholic Social Services’ Montgomery County Family Service Center. He can be reached at pwalsh@chs-adphila.org. More information about Martha’s Choice can be found at www.marthaschoicemarketplace.com.