Be a hero: look outward & be empowered: community service are Transfiguration moments allowing God to find us
Jules Renard, once said: “If you are afraid of being lonely, don’t try to be right.” As much as the world tells us to be free and do whatever you want, most people are afraid to be alone. We ‘need’ to fit in with the crowd so that we are not lonely: peer-pressure, right?
But, what are we afraid of? Being criticised? Many of us fear being left out or alone. Most of us NEED applause from others, because many of us fail to appreciate who we are and we are not sure that God love ME. Perhaps this comes from the slow but steady decline in community service that used to be so common even 50 years ago.
Last week’s homily revealed scientific studies that showed selfishness among organisms leads to extinction. But generosity leads to longer life. The happiest people I know are not marked by money, but by the help they give in the Community, and those who persevere in their responsibility to look after their children (or elders) despite many struggles.
Lent is a great time for us to reflect on how much do we care for the Community around us? Caring for our immediate family is good, but it can become difficult and unhappy.
Why? Because in the struggles of family life we imagine everyone else has an easy life. By involving the whole family in some form of Community Service, we discover that many other people have less than us, and have bigger struggles than we do.
So, coming home from our Community Service we appreciate more, all the good things we have. It is also the best defence against children becoming selfish and developing mental health challenges. The children learn how to build a good society when they leave home as adults.
The story of Abram is not so much about going to a foreign land, as to seek God in a different place to where we are comfortable. We need to go out of ourselves to discover a BIGGER God than we have inside of ourselves. And, with our BIGGER God, we become empowered and more productive, not just physically, but also socially.
It is easy to be cynical these days about where the world is going: materialism, corruption, abuse of power, and selfish stupid behaviour by young people. It’s mostly what we hear on TV. But there is a whole other side to the story. Many good things happen every day, but we rarely hear about them: good news does not sell newspapers! There are accidental heroes:
Aaron, 19, and Jamal, 17, who were stopped at a red light when they noticed a beautiful woman in the backseat of the car next to them. Being teenage boys, they checked her out, but as they were looking, they saw her mouthing the words “help me.” The boys called the police and followed the car for a half an hour until they arrived. It turned out the woman had been kidnapped at gunpoint by the driver. https://www.oddee.com/item_98896.aspx
More importantly, there are heroes who deliberately act like Abram and walk outside their comfort zones to speak against injustice, to give of their time to assist others. In one of our large Oblate Schools, many boys take the train home. Stories come back about student misbehaviour. But a great number of stories come back to the College about boys showing kindness to elderly people and cleaning up rubbish, etc.
In those actions, we see a small imitation of the Transfiguration. The beauty of God revealed in kindness to others. God emphasises the importance of caring for the Community: the widows, the orphans and the strangers.
Widows are adults alone and defenceless. Orphans are young people not cared for. Strangers are those who are new, lack knowledge, have few companions, and are vulnerable to abuse.
It’s not easy to be alone these days: most of us desperately keep busy (for pleasure or to enrich ourselves): we try to avoid having to think about the deeper issues of unhappiness in our lives. We see this reflected in the actions of St Peter at the Transfiguration: trying to be busy.
When we visit a dying relative, it is difficult to sit still and listen: to hold their hand and reflect on life and death. A priest shared how some people force-fed their dying relative not for his good, but so they could feel good doing something for them. We are afraid of dying.
This was also the fear that Abram and Sarai faced. However, just as God spoke to them, God is TRYING to speak to us. The Transfiguration teaches us to go away and be silent: so God can help us find peace in the mess of our lives: Max Lucado puts it like this: “God loves you just the way you are, but He refuses to leave you that way. He wants you to be just like Jesus.”
When we go to Confession this Lent, can we focus less on our personal ‘mistakes’ and look outwards at what we could and should have done for others? The times we failed to praise others, to smile and look joyful in our families and workplaces? For the times we chose to make extra money instead of helping in our Community? Look outward and be empowered.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI