Dear Friends in Christ:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” so begins Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities (See, I really do remember something from high school!). So also does it describe the situation that many of us find ourselves in following Hurricane Harvey. I am grateful beyond words to all those who have so generously responded to assist our fellow parishioners and neighbors during this “worst of times”. Unless you have personally lived through losing your home and all of your possessions, it remains a theoretical exercise. It is sad to say, but nonetheless true, that many on our side of town have not had the extended sympathy of some. We undeniably live in a classist society where certain factors in society (media, politics, academia, entertainment) willfully attempt to pit people against each other. Often times, the attempt is to willfully separate people based on race, ethnicity, class, education, income, etc. Sometimes, the attempt is to label one group as victim and another as persecutors or as in this instance, label one group of people as victims and ignore others who are suffering as well. Biblical principles and church teaching clearly call this what it is: sinful. As St. Paul says, There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28) The fact is regardless of one’s income, race or ZIP code, if you lose everything, you have lost everything, be a little or a lot. Such classism and racism sadly exists and it is wrong. Its presence does nothing to help anyone but only adds to the pain, loss and grief that people are suffering from. Another evil that we face is indifferentism. This is the attitude of many who continually live their lives and go on as if nothing has happened because it did not happen to them, be it the local floods, the hurricanes in the Caribbean or the earthquakes in Mexico. Those who are indifferent to the sufferings of others have a spiritual disease that afflicts many hearts. This narcissism is rooted in selfishness and pride.
But as Dickens points out, this is also “the best of times”. The amount of love, selflessness, generosity, care and concern have been marvelous to behold. Our parish has been helping hundreds of families every day for weeks.
Yet as Jesus tells us, “those who have been given much, much is expected” (Lk 12:48).
We were greatly blessed and we remain greatly blessed. In fact, the storm and floods show us our blessings in a new and even more vibrant light. The care and concern for one another has been beautiful. This care has been for those we know well and those we did not know at all before all of this. We have had parishioners show up every day and every weekend to help others. Amazingly, we have had folks who lost their own homes come and help others who were suffering. We have the cooperation and collaboration of our parish with other civic groups, companies and the government. That in itself is pretty miraculous. But it has not just been the corporal acts of mercy, it has also been the spiritual. The folks who have been praying nonstop at home and here in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament for all those who have been affected and all those who have responded to help.
Where do we go from here? Well, as I have stated in last week’s bulletin, If the Lord does not build the house, in vain the builders labor! (Ps 127). We are going with the Lord and to where the Lord takes us. This requires faith and hope. Our neighborhood and our parish are never going to be the same as they were on August 26. That is forever gone. But we trust in the Lord that he will lead us to where we need to be and where he wants us to be. Some of our parish’s strengths shined through this experience, but so did our weaknesses and failures. There is plenty that we did and are doing that is great. There are also areas that we as a parish community, staff and me, as your pastor, need to improve. Our people have suffered a great blow, emotionally, materially and financially. The parish too was not untouched. Hopefully, as a community we will grow in holiness and faith through this. As the days of rebuilding progress, may the Lord grant all of us the graces to persevere in the good, avoid evil and continue sharing his love with all.
In Pace Christi,
Fr. Troy Gately