love and the power of a child

one of the ministries that i miss from our parish of st anthony claret in fresno, is our involvement with “faith in fresno.” in all my years working in community organizing, fresno’s version of “faith in action” was the most evolved. it is a gift of the Spirit

there is a power to be with leaders from the jewish, catholic, muslim, protestant, unitarian universalist and other communities. there are graces that are shared in praying and acting together with people of different faiths. these connections brought inspiration to the depths of my soul. being part of it all, made me thankful to be a minister of the gospel of jesus.

one of the things that makes “faith in fresno” unique is that it brings together people in fresno to DO justice, love and peace from our different creeds and traditions. in confronting the various structures of power, “faith in fresno” witnesses a different kind of power– the power of faith.

each in our own way– but together– were unpacking what love is and what justice ought to look like in our world.

one of the quotes that best describes this dynamic is from martin luther king jr:

“Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”

in jesus’ teachings, love is exemplified at the last supper and the washing of the apostles’ feet. but jesus’ followers needed to be prepared first in order to understand the paradox of this servant leadership.

today’s gospel, from mark 9, sheds light on the power of love that jesus brings:

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee,
but he did not wish anyone to know about it. 
He was teaching his disciples and telling them,
“The Son of Man is to be handed over to men
and they will kill him,
and three days after his death the Son of Man will rise.” 
But they did not understand the saying,
and they were afraid to question him.

They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house,
he began to ask them,
“What were you arguing about on the way?” 
But they remained silent.
They had been discussing among themselves on the way
who was the greatest. 
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them,
“If anyone wishes to be first,
he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” 
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me;
and whoever receives me,
receives not me but the One who sent me.”

love is the giving of oneself to the other– the ultimate sacrifice is indeed one’s life. jesus’ love for us comes through his willingness to die for us.

another truth in this scripture is jesus’ embrace of a child. children are vulnerable and weak– they need protection from those who might exploit them. jesus identifies himself in these vulnerable ones. this oneness is not unrelated to jesus’ teaching on the last judgement in matthew’s gospel– matthew 25: 31ff. we serve jesus when we embrace and serve those in need.

this is the same loving embrace that God gives us in psalm 131.

let us pray:

God of peace, may we always rest in your loving embrace and trust in your providential care. help us to see you in all of our brothers and sisters– especially those who suffer and find life burdensome. guide us in your way of love to serve you by serving those in need. and give us all your peace. amen

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