A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Sunday, September 04, 2005

A time for comfort

Today’s readings offer clear words of challenge and of comfort.

Both the first reading (Ezekiel 33:7-9) and the first part of the Gospel today (Mt. 18: 15-20) remind us of our serious obligation to speak the truth clearly where there is evil and sin. It is a duty from which we dare not shrink, neither as individuals nor as a Church.

* * * * *

But in the face of this past week’s horror and of the daunting humanitarian challenges that lie ahead in aiding those devastated by Hurricane Katrina, this is a time when we need to listen carefully to the words of comfort in today’s readings.

In this past week, we have seen and heard many heart-wrenching things, but what we have heard more often than anything are these four simple words:

“We have lost everything.”

Four simple words repeated in tears by hundreds of thousands of people.

The images come to mind quickly: families sitting in piles of rubble where their house once stood, families sitting in darkness and terror on the dirty carpet of a convention center, people sitting desolate on a highway, people in crowded shelters hundreds of miles from their homes - homes that no longer exist.

“We have lost everything.”

For these people, confronting the sudden and catastrophic emptiness of their lives, the last verse of today’s Gospel offers very special words of comfort.

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”

Indeed, this morning, in the midst of destruction and displacement, by the wreckage of churches and in shelters all through that wounded region, people with shattered lives are gathering together in prayer.

And the Lord Jesus is in their midst.

We too are joined with these people in prayer, no matter where we may be on the face of this planet, holding hands with them spiritually and opening our hearts with them to the presence of the Savior.

That is a great message of comfort for these days: “There am I in the midst of them,” says the Lord.

Yet even in these words, there is a challenge, for these words accentuate the obligation for all of us to be gathered together with these people in need: gathered with them in prayer, but also gathered with them in aid.

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear
and has no food for the day,
and one of you says to them,
"Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,"
but you do not give them the necessities of the body,
what good is it?

James 2:15-16

These have been challenging days - and many, many challenging days lie ahead. You and I as Christians must gather together, especially with our needy brothers and sisters, for thus says the Lord:

“Where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.”