Sunday, September 18, 2016

A Giving Love - A Wedding Homily

 God's blessings on the marriage of Megan and Jonathan!

         Sarah Smith comes down from heaven to welcome her husband Frank at its threshold.  Glorious in her resurrection, Sarah shares God’s love with all she meets, yet she greets Frank with an apology.  Sarah confesses that in their earthly marriage, she loved him “only in a poor sort of way.”  While there was a little real love in it, she mostly loved him for her own sake because she needed Frank.[1]  Living fully in Christ’s love, Sarah grew to understand that real love is a giving love, not one based on need.  That’s the message of our Gospel, and the secret to a happy marriage.

            In our very brief Gospel passage, Jesus invokes the word “love” seven times and invites us to “remain in his love” three times.  In our second reading, Saint Paul encourages the Colossians to “put on love,” which he calls the “bond of perfection.”  Jesus and Saint Paul aren’t talking about any old love, like loving pie or the Lakers.  They’re talking about a completely selfless, giving love.  They’re talking about God’s love.

          It’s humbling to consider that God created us and everything around us purely out of love.  What does that mean?  “God did not need to create the world because he needed someone to talk to, or to have friends or because he needed or wanted our submission . . . . The world is not created because of some lack in God.”[2]  The world is created purely out of love.  God’s love doesn’t need anything; it’s pure gift.  That’s why Thomas Aquinas defines love as “willing the good of another, and not willing my own good through another.”[3]

          Christ’s invitation to remain in his love is wonderful advice for marriage.  You see, when we remain in God’s love, we have everything we need.  As Sarah explained to Frank, when we’re in Love Himself, there’s nothing more we need.[4]  Then, when we have no need for each other, we can begin to really love each other.  God’s love transcends our needs, and moves us beyond our own self-interest to care and concern for the one we love.  Married love differs from other kinds of love because its essence is giving – giving one’s whole self to another, and therein lies the wonderful gift and the great challenge of marriage. 

Marriage isn’t easy.  We’re not always giving; we’re not always loving; and we’re not always lovable (Although I think Megan might always be lovable).  But Megan and Jon, if you follow Saint Paul’s advice, if you exercise the virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance, forgiveness and love, you will remain in God’s love, you’ll bring God’s love to each other, and God’s love will carry you through any hardships you may face.

          We’ve been preparing for this day together for a year now, and in that time I’ve become convinced that your relationship has a whole lot of real love in it.  Your love for each other is a giving love; it’s God’s love.  You’ve shared God’s love with me, and I know that you share it with each other.  How do I know?  Well, I asked Megan and Jon separately what they loved the most about each other.  Since I warned them that anything sweet or funny that they say during marriage prep is fair game for my homily, allow me share a few of their responses with you:  When I asked Megan what she loved most about Jon, she said, “His heart; he’s patient; and the kind, loving person that he is.”  She also said that he’s not a Saint and that she used to laugh more at him than with him when they first started dating.  When I asked Jon what he loved most about Megan, he said, “The way she treats others; her positive outlook; she’s supportive and understanding; and she always sees the best in people.”  He also said that she leaves fingerprints all over his car seat.  

          The best things that Megan and Jon see in each other all reflect a giving love.  Jon didn’t say that he needed Megan to organize his playlists, and Megan didn’t say that she needed Jon to keep her on time.  Megan and Jon aren’t marrying each other because of some lack in themselves.  They’re marrying each other because they love each other.  So Megan and Jon, I’d like to ask you to stand where you are (don’t worry, this isn’t the vows yet), face each other and share for all to hear the words I taught you to say to each other every day:  “I don’t need you.” And now I’d like you to add, “I just love you.”  That’s a giving love.  That’s God’s love.  Remain in God’s love, and you’ll hold the secret to a happy marriage in your hearts forever.

Readings:  Sirach 26: 1-4, 13-16; Psalm 145; Colossians 3:12-17; John 15: 9-12

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (San Francisco, Harper Collins, 2001) at 125.
[2] James V. Schall, A Final Gladness, Final Lecture, Georgetown University (December 7, 2012).
[3] Robert Barron, The Strangest Way:  Walking the Christian Path (Maryknoll, Orbis, 2002) at 92.
[4] Lewis at 126.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Justice and Mercy

          Shylock wants his pound of flesh, quite literally.  You see, in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Antonio has defaulted on a loan from Shylock for which he pledged a pound of his own flesh as security.   Despite pleas for mercy and an offer from Antonio’s friend Bassanio to pay twice the amount of the loan, Shylock refuses to capitulate.  “Void and empty from any dram of mercy,”[1] Shylock craves justice; he wants his pound of Antonio’s flesh.  Shylock sees justice and mercy as mutually exclusive.  Our readings tell us otherwise.     

           Today’s readings center on the theme of mercy.  In our first reading from Exodus, Moses pleads for and receives God’s mercy on behalf of the Israelites who had turned away from God.  In our second reading, Saint Paul acknowledges that even he, the foremost of sinners, was treated mercifully by God.  And in our Gospel, Jesus responds to self-righteous complaints about his association with the unrighteous through a series of lost and found parables that show how God actively seeks out the lost with an offer of mercy.   If nothing else, our readings teach us that “God’s mercy will never be exhausted.”[2] 

          We tend to struggle with the concept of mercy because it seems to conflict with our sense of justice.  Mercy, as we understand it, is showing compassion or forbearance toward someone who offends us, while justice is giving someone what he or she deserves.  Well, if someone deserves a good whoopin’, wouldn’t mercy conflict with justice?  That’s what Shylock and the elder brother in today’s parable thought.  Fortunately, God is kinder than man.  In God, justice and mercy “are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that . . . culminates in the fullness of love.”[3]  In God, mercy doesn’t contradict justice, it’s the vehicle through which God’s justice is rendered.  “Mercy is not opposed to justice but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert, and believe.”[4]

          Therein lies our first challenge.  In order to receive God’s mercy, we have to acknowledge that we actually need it and act accordingly.  Our Psalm teaches us that we need God’s mercy, and we need a humble and contrite spirit to receive it.  Humility and contrition open our hearts to the healing mercy we so desperately need.  We can never forget that in the face of merciless justice, “[h]umankind [would] merit[] death because of sin.”[5]  Our salvation comes not through any merit of our own but through the mercy that God makes available to all – even to the gravest of sinners among us - in Jesus Christ.  As hard as it may be to believe, God offered the same mercy to Saint Augustine and Saint Teresa of Calcutta has he did to Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden.  But those who receive God’s mercy are those who acknowledge their sins and repent with humble and contrite hearts.  It’s only then that justice can be truly served.

          Our second challenge lies in offering mercy to others.  We tend to want mercy for ourselves, but justice for those who hurt us.  If I get caught speeding, I hope for a warning; but if you cut me off in the Flemington Circle, I want your driver’s license suspended and the words “Bad Driver” tattooed on your forehead.  We all face much deeper wounds than that, of course, and this fifteenth anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks is certainly one of them; a wound so deep that makes it especially difficult to extend our mercy to the perpetrators.  But as the Duke of Venice so aptly put it, “How shalt thou hope for mercy rendering none?”[6]  How can we expect mercy for ourselves if we’re not willing to give it to others?  Fortunately, the same humility and contrition through which we receive God’s mercy gently and persistently opens our hearts and minds to an understanding that others need our mercy, too, especially the worst among us.  There will be great rejoicing among the angels of God every time we show mercy to the least of our brothers and sisters, for mercy “is twice blest:  It blesses him that gives and him that takes.”[7]

          Blessings or not, Shylock had no desire to extend mercy to Antonio.  The mysterious, young judge warned Shylock that if he insists on merciless justice, “Thou shalt have justice more than thou desirest.”[8]  Shylock still demanded justice, so the judge interpreted the contract strictly and justly:  Shylock had a right to exactly one pound of Antonio’s flesh, not an ounce more or an ounce less; and because the contract does not call for it, he may not shed a single drop of Antonio’s blood in the process.  If he does, Shylock will be put to death for murder, and his estate will be forfeited.  Merciless justice left Shylock with nothing – without repayment of the debt or a means to exact his pound of flesh.  But in the end, even poor Shylock receives a little mercy:  the Duke of Venice spares his life by pardoning him for his attempt to murder Antonio.  Shylock learned the hard way that merciless justice isn’t really justice at all.  He really wanted what we all want:  justice and mercy.

Readings:  Exodus 32: 7-11, 13-14; Psalm 51; 1 Timothy 1: 12-17; Luke 15: 1-32

[1] William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene 1.
[2] Saint Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary at 72.
[3] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus (Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 2015) at 20.
[4] Id. at 21.
[5] Walter Kasper, Mercy:  The Essence of the Gospel and the Key to Christian Life (New York, Paulist Press, 2014) at 55.
[6] Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice.
[7] Id.
[8] Id.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Simple Saint

                This morning in Rome, Pope Francis officially declared what the world has known for decades:  Mother Teresa is a saint.  Few doubt her place among the Church Triumphant, having witnessed her powerful ministry to the poorest of the poor, but the tremendous and persistent outcry for her canonization from people of all religious backgrounds and walks of life testifies to something more.  Mother Teresa wasn’t a powerful pope like St. John Paul II.  She wasn’t a brilliant theologian like St. Thomas Aquinas, nor a glorious martyr like St. Joan of Arc.  Mother Teresa was a simple woman who did “small things with great love.”  That’s exactly the kind of saint we needed – a simple saint.

                There’s a lot of confusion about what saints are and what they’re not.  Though we tend to romanticize the lives of the saints, saints aren’t gods or icons of worship.  Saints aren’t distant figures who entered heaven through some special, God-given advantage.  Most importantly, saints aren’t perfect.  Saints walked the earth, faced tough choices, made mistakes, suffered and died just like everybody else does.  Saints are real people – real people who lived life well enough to receive the crown of victory.  Like great generals, political leaders and sports figures in the secular world, saints are our spiritual heroes and our greatest role models.   

 But we should never forget that saints are also our best friends and closest allies.  They’re always on our side, encouraging us to live life well and praying that we, too, may obtain the crown of eternal life.  So we should pray to the saints like we talk to our BFFs.  We should share our problems with them, seek their support and ask them to put in a good word for us with God. 
The challenge with sainthood for us is that it seems so unachievable.  How could an average Joe like me ever become a saint?  “I’m no Mother Teresa.”  Well, if the standard for sainthood is superhuman virtue, then apparently Mother Teresa was no Mother Teresa either.  She was known to be short-tempered and impatient, and she has been roundly criticized for not doing enough to improve the conditions of the poor.  Mother Teresa’s success in life wasn’t in being perfect, it was in simply following Jesus as best she could.  In doing so, she proved that doing “small things with great love” isn’t just highly achievable, it’s highly contagious.  She began the Missionaries of Charity alone, seeking out the poorest of the poor in the streets of Calcutta.  By 2016, her simple example has inspired so many that the order is now blessed with more than 4,500 religious sisters in 133 countries. 

Saints like Mother Teresa inspire real people to use their God-given talents, as simple as they may be, to help others.  We need more saints like Mother Teresa to teach us that sainthood is the only goal worth living for.  We need more saints like Mother Teresa to prove that sainthood is highly achievable.  We need more saints like Mother Teresa to hold our hand along the journey and show us how we can become simple saints, too. 

            Saint Teresa of Calcutta, pray for us!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Our Sweet Sixteen!

          August 28th is a very special day in the Meyer household. The first announcements that the date is fast approaching begin around February 28 of each year, with reminders increasing in frequency from monthly, to weekly, to daily, until the hourly countdown begins during the week of August 21st. Perhaps you’re thinking that the Meyers have a particular devotion to St. Augustine, whose feast day falls on August 28th, or that we celebrate the day Henry Hudson discovered Delaware Bay in 1609. Maybe you’re thinking that we’re marking the beginning of the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1862 or the day that Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands opened the Peace Palace in The Hague in 1913. No, those events, though noteworthy, can’t hold a candle to the importance of August 28th to the Meyer family. In fact, this year, they can’t hold sixteen candles to it. On August 28, 2000, the Good Lord blessed us with our first child, Caitlin Marie, who tomorrow becomes our Sweet Sixteen.

          At about the hour of this writing on August 27th, 2000, Jessica went into labor. Having had several false labors over the previous weeks, we dutifully went through all of the prescribed routines to see if labor would stop before heading to the hospital. Jessica drank lots of water; she took a hot bath; and at 11:00 pm, we dragged our faithful lab Bubba from his beauty sleep to walk seemingly infinite circles around our Northern Virginia property. I’ll never forget the frustration in Bubba's eyes every time our circles continued past the side door of the house as he desperately tried to go back to bed. With contractions increasing in frequency by midnight, we knew it was time to head to the hospital; and at 7:00 pm on August 28th, Caitlin was born.

          Three memories of Caitlin's birth remain indelibly etched in my mind. The first is of the enormous outpouring of unconditional love that I felt for her. Jessica and I joined the ranks of parents who confess that we never knew we could love so much. The second memory is of the overwhelming sense of responsibility that landed squarely on my shoulders at the moment she was born. “Holy cr*p, I don’t know how to be a father” has echoed in my cranium every day since. No doubt, my daughters agree. The third memory is that Caitlin had an enormous head. Her head was so big that she bore the nickname Pumpkin-Head until my friend Bill warned me that she'd need therapy if I kept calling her that name. She then became my Punkin, and she remains so to this day.

          Sixteen is a big year for young ladies and their parents. Caitlin will get her driving permit sometime this week, and she begins her first full-week as a high school junior on Monday. To prepare myself for what else may lie in store, I checked out Wikipedia’s list of the rites of passage that accompany the sixteenth year of life. Here are a few, appended with my thoughts on each:
o Sixteen is the minimum age for getting an adult job in most states and provinces around the world. Well, I don’t know what they mean by an “adult” job, so we’ll just delete that word. Jobs are good, though.
o Sixteen is the minimum age that one can drop out of school in many states in the United States.  Don’t even think it, unless you have the aforementioned job and are prepared to pay exorbitantly high rent while living at home.
o Sixteen is the minimum age to get married with parental consent in many countries.  Such consent will not be forthcoming any time soon. Just keep repeating the first sentence I taught you: “My Daddy has a shotgun.”
o Sixteen is the legal drinking age in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and Portugal.  Nein, Nee/Non, Nein/Non/No, Nein, No, and Não!
          As cliché as it may sound, I can’t believe the time has gone by so quickly. I’m much too young to have a 16-year-old daughter. Each of Caitlin’s sixteen years has been a blessing in its own way, and I’m sure this year will be as well. Yes, August 28th is a very special day in the Meyer household. It’s the day we thank God for the gift of Caitlin Marie, who tomorrow becomes our Sweet Sixteen. Happy Birthday, Punkin! Your Daddy loves you!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

It’s a Miracle!

For the past three weeks or so, I’ve been nursing a backache brought on by stupidly tugging on a stubborn weed while hunched over lower than Quasimodo snatching a centime off the streets of Paris.  Though I’ve dutifully performed the exercises given to me by a great physical therapist, the backache just didn’t seem to want to go away.  In fact, as time went on, it slowly began to spread across my lower back.  By Friday of this past week, I was hobbling around like Mr. Dawes in Mary Poppins.  But by Saturday morning, I had had enough.  I said to myself, “I’m done with this backache,” as I hopped out of bed bracing myself against the nagging pain that undoubtedly would follow.  And then it happened, or it didn’t happen, as the case may be.  I had almost no pain at all.   I was standing up straight as an arrow, walking tall once again as homo erectus instead of homo curvatus.  All I could think was, “It’s a miracle!”

I’ve always believed in miracles in the fullest sense of the word.  As Albert Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life.  One is as though nothing is a miracle.  The other is as though everything is a miracle.”  I choose the latter.  Miracles are any signs or wonders that can only be attributed to divine power.  So sure, I believe that the parting of the Red Sea and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes are miracles, but I also believe that miracles happen all around us all the time.  I see miracles in the rising sun and the dew-touched grass.  I see miracles in a brilliant thunderstorm and in the rainbow that follows it.  I see miracles in the changing seasons and in the circle of life.  I see miracles . . . all the time.  They’re everywhere.

The God of the Judeo-Christian tradition is active in our lives.  God’s presence fills all of creation; God speaks to us through signs and wonders, in the depths of our consciences and in the words of the prophets; and God himself “became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  (John 1: 14)  So it just makes sense that God would give us miracles to let us know that he graces us with his presence all the time.  Just last week, I received a phone call from a dear friend at a time when I really needed a friendly voice.  I hadn’t spoken to her in months, and the first words out of her mouth were, “Something told me that I needed to call.”  That’s God.  That’s a miracle. 

Miracles are like Pokémon:  you’ll find them in the most unexpected places, as long as you look for them.  If you believe in miracles, they’re everywhere; if you don’t you’ll never see one.  The trick with miracles, though, is never to expect them.  We set ourselves up for disappointment if we relentlessly expect a particular miracle to happen.  God doesn’t work that way.  God gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want.  So the miracles we get may not always be the miracles we want, but the miracles we get are always the miracles we need. 

          So do I really believe that my back was miraculously cured?  In a way, yes.  Now, I don’t believe that the hand of God reached from the heavens, touched my back and cured me.  I still have a little back pain, and I’m still doing my exercises.  But I do believe that on Saturday morning, God gave me the insight to realize that my growing back pain wasn’t coming from my original injury, but rather from increased stress in my life.  Once God inspired me to get up and get the stress under control, the additional pain all but disappeared.  That insight was a gift from God, and I truly believe that God actively intervened in my well-being.  And in that regard, at least, it’s a miracle!

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Gift of Peace

           I don’t believe in coincidences. The other night, after a day of hospital visits, chasing down doctors and busily getting ready to go out of town to pack up her mother’s house, my wife Jessica received a very special gift. As she described it, “I had the sweetest little dove visit last night at dusk. It was exhausted and possibly overheated. I brought it inside, gave it some water and let it cool off.” Jessica surely gave that dove a much-needed break, but that dove also brought Jessica a very special gift when she needed it the most – the gift of peace.

          Those who know Jessica know all too well that she loves animals. To call her an animal nut wouldn’t do her justice. Jessica’s a dyed-in-the-wool, Doctor Doolittle, Horse Whisperer, stop-the-car-in-the-middle-of-a-highway-to-save-a-turtle kind of animal nut. She loves pretty much every animal (except the chickens who dig up her bulbs). On the animal front, our house puts the Twelve Days of Christmas to shame. Jessica has an unmistakable spiritual connection with animals: she thrives when they thrive, and she suffers when they suffer. Most of all, Jessica finds God’s peace in animals.

          The Jews have a wonderful word for God’s peace – shalom. While often translated simply as “peace,” shalom has a much deeper meaning. It connotes wholeness, well-being and safety. Shalom is a transcendent, eternal peace that can only be found in God. That’s why rabbinic teachings say that “the name of God is Shalom.” To live in shalom is to live united with God: happy, complete, at peace. When we live in shalom, God’s peace flows through us, and we bring peace to all around us.

          How do we live in God’s peace when the world is anything but peaceful? The short answer is, “we choose to.” God is everywhere, and so is his peace. God never stops sharing his peace with us. God’s peace is in a dew-kissed morning. God’s peace is in a baby’s smile. God’s peace is in the consolation of a loved one. God’s peace is in a job well-done. God’s peace is in lofty mountain majesties. God’s peace is in the sweetest little dove. No matter how chaotic or even violent life can be, God’s peace is there for the taking. It’s up to us to seek it, find it, enjoy it and share it.

          Over the past few months, Jessica’s world has been a roller coaster ride for reasons known all too well by the “Sandwich Generation.” At the height of her lows, Jessica found that little dove, a seemingly helpless animal in distress that took her mind off of her woes, if just for a moment. Jessica described it as a gift that helped her sad heart. When she needed it the most, that little dove brought Jessica a gift from God – the gift of peace. When she returned it outside, she held it in her open hand for about a minute before it flew away, no doubt to bring God’s gift of peace to someone else who needed it. I don’t believe in coincidences.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

It’s Time to Be Neighbors

The Good Samaritan, by Eugène Delacroix, 1849
On Friday morning, I decided to scrap the homily I’d been preparing for you today.  I felt like I had to address this past week’s seemingly endless news of violence upon violence.  Homilies are supposed to help make Scripture relevant to us today, so if I were to avoid what’s going on in the real world for a feel good homily, I wouldn’t be doing my job.  Fortunately for me, the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit nudged our Church Fathers some 45 years ago to select a Gospel for today that’s perfect for times like these.  In times like these, it’s time to be neighbors.

In our Gospel passage, Jesus is talking with a lawyer who wants precise answers.  So when Jesus confirms that the key to eternal life is loving God and loving neighbor, the lawyer wants Jesus to be more specific; he wants Jesus to tell him exactly which neighbors he has to love.  You see, “the general meaning of ‘neighbor’ at least for Hebrew speakers, is a person in intimate or legal relationship.”[1]  Not everyone falls into that category, so Jews of Jesus’ time generally understood “neighbor” to mean those within the Jewish community.  And therein lies the rub of the parable of the Good Samaritan.  Samaritans and Jews hated each other.  They were mortal enemies.  By having a Samaritan come to the aid of a Jew, Jesus is telling us that the command to love our neighbor extends to all.  Everyone deserves our love:  Jew or Samaritan; Catholic or Muslim; gay or straight; saint or sinner; Trump supporter or Clinton supporter; every race, creed or color.  The simple message of the parable of the Good Samaritan is that everyone deserves our love!

Unfortunately, I think we’ve forgotten that simple message.  We have way too many enemies, and not enough neighbors.  “The Gospel would totally denounce the modern world as a world without the neighbor, the dehumanized world of abstract, anonymous and distant relationships.”[2]  We spend our time staring into hand-held devices and computer screens to avoid looking each other in the eye.  We categorize people by what they are to avoid having to learn who they are.  We judge people by their differences to avoid the uncanny notion that we are, in fact, created equal.  And every time we do these things, we grow further and further apart from our neighbors; we begin to demonize those who disagree with us; we disregard more and more the God-given dignity of every human being and the sanctity of human life; and we slowly, but surely, lose touch with God. 

It’s time for us to be neighbors again.  It’s time for us to remember that our neighbor isn’t just the person next door who’s comfortably separated from us by a neatly trimmed privet hedge or white picket fence.  Neighbors cross lines and boundaries: 

-         Neighbors bring each other casseroles; 

-         Neighbors help old ladies cross the street; 

-         Neighbors open doors for each other; 

-         Neighbors ask each other how they’re doing and listen to the answer;

-         Neighbors honor their commonalities and respect their differences; 

-         Neighbors pray for each other; and

-         Neighbors do all of these things for each other no matter what or who the other may be. 

If we want to be a neighbor, we have to “go beyond friend and family and extend welcome and mercy to the outcast and even to one’s enemies.”[3] 

We’re created to be neighbors.  As our reading from Deuteronomy tells us, God’s commandment to love God and neighbor is written in our hearts; we just have to carry it out.  (Deuteronomy 30: 14)  It’s in carrying out God’s love for every person that we prove that we love and serve the one who made peace for us through the blood of his cross.  (Colossians 1: 20)  Now I’m no dreamy-eyed idealist.  I know that there’s no quick-fix to the problems we face today.  But I am confident that if we just start acting the way we were made to act, if we just start being neighbors, things will be a whole lot better.  

As I scrambled to put together my new homily for today, I stumbled across a Facebook post by an African American woman named Natasha that she labeled, “Feeling Hopeful.”  Natasha’s post reads as follows:

So this morning I went into a convenience store to get a protein bar.  As I walked through the door, I noticed that there were two white police officers . . . talking to the clerk . . . behind the counter about the shootings that have gone on in the past few days.  They all looked at me and fell silent.  I went about my business to get what I was looking for.  As I turned back up the aisle to go pay, the oldest officer was standing at the top of the aisle watching me.  As I got closer, he asked me how I was doing.  I replied, “Okay, and you?”  He looked at me with a strange look and asked me, “How are you really doing?”  I looked at him and said, “I’m tired!”  His reply was, “Me too.”  Then he said, “I guess it’s not easy being either of us right now, is it?”  I said, “No, it’s not.”  Then he hugged me, and I cried.  I had never seen that man before in my life.  I have no idea why he was moved to talk to me.  What I do know is that he and I shared a moment this morning that was absolutely beautiful.  No judgments, no justifications, just two people sharing a moment.[4]

I’m feeling hopeful, too, because among all of the violence out there, there are still people like Natasha and that police officer who know that in times like these, it’s time to be neighbors. 

[1] Amy-Jill Levine, Short Stories by Jesus:  The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi (New York, Harper Collins, 2014) at 85.
[2] David Lyle Jeffrey, Luke, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids, Brazos Press, 2012) at 150.
[3] Michael F. Patella. “The Gospel According to Luke,” New Collegeville Bible Commentary, Daniel Durken, ed. (Collegeville, Liturgical Press, 2009) at 258.
[4] Natasha Howell, Facebook, July 9, 2016.