At our side

In New York City, amidst the towering canyons of Wall Street, a church established a drop-in shelter for the homeless. The journalist Bill Moyers once requested a meal, a shower, a chair, a restroom. It was to be a part of his regular PBS weekly series. While sitting near the door waiting for his camera crew to set up, he watched as the clientele entered the John Heuss House for help. Each person, before entering, had to empty his or her pockets of everything. Guns, knives, or weapons of any sort were placed in a basket for safe keeping before the visitor could enter. They would be returned the next morning. Mr. Moyers remarked, “It’s like another language is spoken here.” The street is only a few feet away yet a person must give up the weapons of that world in order to enter a new one with radically different values.
So often we enter church in just the same way. We might have been angry with someone on the way, but we come in and sing of love and peace. We rush through hectic days and can go forever without even pausing to remember that God is involved in our life, and then we kneel here before the one who is thinking of us at every moment and blessing us more than we can imagine. We leave behind our judgments and prejudice and bad thoughts and proclaim that within these walls we are all sisters and brothers. It’s as if a different language is spoken here.
But of course, what we do here is not intended to be confined within the walls of the church. The gospel today speaks of terrible things to come – the total destruction of the Temple, wars, persecutions, betrayal. And if such terrible things are headed our way, the normal reaction is to at least want to have a clue about when it will occur, so we can be prepared. But Jesus doesn’t give any guidance as to when and how it will come.
Instead, he counsels his followers to trust that he will be with them and he will take care of everything. They don’t need to prepare their defense; he will give them all the wisdom they need. When we leave this church, remarkable things are possible because Jesus goes with us. We can suddenly become patient and forgiving with the driver who is making us wait forever while they try to turn against traffic. We can go home and figure out something special we can do to share our blessings with someone else. We can discover the ability to look at a stranger and see a glimpse of the face of Jesus, our Brother, and welcome them as we would him.
The language we speak “in here” and the language we speak “out there” is not meant to be different. Our contact with Jesus here at church continues as we depart, as he gives us the wisdom to speak his words of comfort, lend our hands to raise up those who are weak, to see the opportunities all around us to reflect his loving care. The world is a dangerous place, and in the end it will all pass away. But, we don’t need to worry about when or how that will happen because there is no doubt that Jesus is always at our side.

–Fr. Stephen W Bierschenk