Another picture reflection from my friend Joyce Smith
This quotation from Oscar Romero is one that is often quoted. In one sense it is about putting the needs of the poor and the oppressed before onself. In our tupsy-turvy world the love of possessions is often greater than responding to the needs of the people who have little. This is becoming more obvious as the Covid virus is affecting levels of society which have, hitherto, been fairly immune, maybe even cushioned, from reality. Less so now, though there is a strata of society who have been rarely affected by the vagaries of the economic and social situation. We had an example of that yesterday in a thoughtless and rather pompous utterance in Parliament by a Government minister, with much personal wealth, whose main job ought to be about serving the people – all, not just a select and privileged few.
Oscar Romero knew life to be at its harshest and also fought for those in material terms have very little. He cautioned against judging people on what they haven’t got in the way of possessions. We must affirm people not for what they lack in a material sense but rather for WHO they are.
Being or becoming the person God means us to be is much more important than any thing else. Sister Edmee of the Sisters of the Love of God believed that it’s our prime vocation to enter into a unique and personal relationsip with God as, through grace He shapes us into becoming the person He longs us to be.
Each of us is called into a unique relationship with God which allows Him to love us in a special way. It is a call heard and answered in prayer. Out of this is the love we pour into a fragmented and often despairing society, especially at present. Our true being is expressed primarily in serving God and so reaching out in love to others. Especially those who need our love the most – the lonely and afraid, the sick and the suffering, those who are having a rough time in so many different ways. We are called to be healers who in the power of Jesus’s name touch open wounds and pour in the balm of love.
Jonathan Sachs understood this more than most and not just because he represented a people who have suffered (and go on suffering) at the hands of others through prejudice, persecution and destruction.
He understood the need to celebrate who we are and to reach out to others way above aquisitiveness.
In the end we will be judged by how much we have tried to love others, God, and yes, in the right way, ourselves, rather than how much we have in the bank or how much we have achieved in terms of personal success or what we have acquired.
In his book, To heal a Fractured World, Jonathan Sachs speaks of the most difficult thing he had to do after becoming a rabbi – taking funerals. Being new, he had little knowledge of his people and he had to ask others about the deceased.
Usually, he says, they would tell him about how so-and-so had been a loving husband or wife, a loving parent, a loyal friend. They would speak about the good they had done to others, often quietly, discreetly. When they were needed, they were there. They shouldered their responsibilities to the community. They gave to charitable causes and if they couldn’t give money, they gave time. Those most mourned and missed, he says, were not the most successful, rich or famous. They were people who enhanced the lives of others. They were the people who were loved. At no point did people speak in praise of people who had died, about what car they drove, what house they owned, the clothes they wore, the exotic holidays they took.
At the heart of all this, he says, is that “God created the world so that others could enjoy it. Goodness is not an attribute of the soul but a way of acting and creating: creating happiness for other people, mitigating their distress, removing even a fraction of the world’s pain. we worship God spiritually by helping his creation physically.
That was central to the praying, teaching and action of Oscar Romero and it breathes meaning into his belief that we should : Aspire not to have more, but to be more.
Rather like the lovely owl who is ready for flight and freedom. Who soars above the world and celebrates sheer being and brings joy to all whose lives are lifted by the sight.
Do we lift others by our actions, our love, and who we are?
Thank you Joyce for the lovely image to go with Oscar Romero’s vital words.