Sunday, August 8, 2010

Non-homily brought to you by a young lay woman.

A 'reflection' that I gave 'during the time of the homily' at a parish in Winchester, MA this weekend to fundraise for Rostro.


Actively awaiting the kingdom. All three readings this morning speak to us of a participating in, trusting in, and awaiting God’s Kingdom. The first reading from the book of Wisdom depicts the faith and courage of the Jewish people as they longed for salvation. In the second reading, Paul recounts Abraham’s complete and total submission in faith to God’s will as he left his homeland for an unknown destination—the promised land—because he believed that the one who made the promise was trustworthy.

Finally, in the Gospel, Jesus proclaims the parable of the servants who are rewarded for their active vigilance while their Master is away. Upon his return, the vigilant servants, those who cared for one another and that which the Master has entrusted to them, are invited to recline at table, and the Master Himself serves them. Contrary to this, the ignorant and lackadaisical servant is severely punished for his disengaged attitude and mistreatment of his fellow workers.

What are these readings demanding of us? Not only that we wait in joyful hope for the Kingdom and trust completely in God’s promise of salvation, but that we actively participate in the coming of this kingdom through total faith and service to others.

Now, who am I to be speaking about any of this, and why am I the one standing before you today?

My name is Elyse and I want to share with you my experience of the readings we heard today.

After graduating from Fairfield University, I joined a year-long volunteer program called Rostro de Cristo—which means, in Spanish, the face of Christ—in hopes of more concretely exploring my faith while dedicating myself full-time in service to the poor. Similar to Abraham, I was called to go out to a place – Ecuador – and I went out by faith, sojourning in a foreign country, not knowing exactly what God had in mind.

This program, Rostro de Cristo, invites young people from the U.S. to live and serve in Ecuador in order to experience the prophetic presence of Christ among the poor. Every morning I tutored at a Catholic school in a classroom with a dozen young teenage girls who were at a third grade reading level. Why? Because the insufferable poverty forced them to drop out of school in order to work to help feed their family. Every afternoon, I opened the doors to an after-school program and without fail, in came running up to fifty children who would otherwise spend their afternoons searching for new toys amidst heaps of trash or simply playing soccer in the dirt streets because they have no pens at home to complete their homework.

Some of my fondest memories come from my time as a catechist in a local parish. Gathering weekly in a wooden church about the size of this sacristy, seated in a circle on plastic chairs, I was challenged time and time again to understand the Gospel message through the eyes of my young students: Cindy, a feisty sixteen-year-old who lives in a two-room cane house with her mother and two sisters, or Anthony, an eleven year old whose narrow frame shows evidence of childhood malnutrition. What would they think of Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel: “Be vigilant…Sell your belongings and give alms...”. What belongings? Yet day after day, week after week, I was astounded at the generosity, truly the charity, of my friends and neighbors in Ecuador. Rarely was I able to enter a home without being offered a small meal or glass of soda—almost as if I were the Master returning home in Jesus’ story. Together we were actively awaiting the Kingdom—a kingdom of love, of justice, of right relationships; a kingdom of needs met, where a mother does not have to choose which one of her four children she will send to school while the others work in the streets, a kingdom where basic healthcare and clean water are universally accessible. Together we were the servants, caring for Christ the Master by serving one another – through offerings of rice and beans, open hearts, and sincere presence.

As a young adult Catholic, my faith and worldview were radically transformed by participating in the lives of the poor in Ecuador. Never again will I see my life as mine alone. I am now acutely and irreversibly aware of the deep responsibility each of us has to create a more just world and to ease the suffering of those around us, as near to us as our siblings, and as far as our brothers and sisters across the world. But I am just one. Every year, Rostro de Cristo hosts up to sixteen young adult Americans who live and serve as volunteers in Ecuador for one year. In addition to this, we annually host around three hundred high school and college students on week-long immersion retreats in order to be radically transformed in the same way. Not only does Rostro de Cristo work to accompany and meet the needs of the poorest of the poor, it is an extraordinarily formative and life-changing experience for the young adults—the future leaders of our Church and our world—who participate in this program.

I humbly invite you today to join myself, hundreds of other Rostro de Cristo participants, and all of our neighbors in Ecuador, in being a servant in today’s Gospel, actively awaiting the Kingdom. Without a doubt, each of us is called to live out our common vocation of faithful service in unique ways—as parents, teachers, caregivers, students, etc. We are also called, in particular by today’s Gospel, to give alms. A second collection will be taken up today to support the good work of Rostro de Cristo in Ecuador. I invite you to prayerfully consider how your generosity will contribute to this Kingdom of justice and needs met. Your donations will directly impact the lives of our neighbors in Ecuador by allowing Rostro de Cristo year-long volunteers to continue serving full-time in health clinics, hospitals, schools, shelters, and after-school programs. In addition, your generosity will offer this powerful immersion experience to hundreds of young people every year.

There is more information about Rostro de Cristo and our work in the pews. I will be available in the lobby after mass, along with another Rostro de Cristo alumni volunteer, Jon. We look forward to speaking with you in more detail about Rostro de Cristo and our volunteer experiences.

On behalf of Rostro de Cristo and all those whose lives are touched by your generosity, thank you. May God bless you today and always as together we actively and faithfully await God’s Kingdom.