Sunday, July 14, 2013

THE LEPER IN ME



Recently I gave a talk at the end of which I read a piece about walking around my LA neighborhood of Silver Lake and pondering the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The piece ended like this:

"All over the world, all day, every day, people are suffering, and here comes Barry, the homeless schizophrenic and hopeless alcoholic who wanders up and down Sunset Boulevard, one grimy hand clutching a plastic bag holding his worldly belongings, the other held out in a perpetual plea for booze money. What to do in the face of such suffering? What to do with your brokenness, your feebleness, your weakness, your own suffering and doubt and loneliness and fear? You give Barry a couple of bucks. You make sure to shake his hand and thank him, because this is Christ. And you keep walking--to Mass."

Afterwards, my contact person observed,  "You don't fit in any category! Let's face it, most of us aren't going to shake hands with a homeless person! And yet you talk to the homeless and..."

"Love the Church?" I interjected.

"We are all rather blessed in our deprivations if we let ourselves be," observed Flannery O'Connor. I'm so poor I long to shake Barry's hand. I'm so poor I need Christ.


ST. BASIL'S CHURCH
KOREATOWN, L.A.
I ATTENDED MY FIRST MASS HERE, AND THOUGH I NO LONGER
LIVE IN THE HOOD, WENT TO NOON MASS ON THE FEAST OF ST. THOMAS JULY 3 AND
GOT TO VISIT WITH FR. TERRY,
MY FRIEND WHO LIVES AT THE RECTORY THERE

14 comments:

  1. This is wonderful. Thank you, Heather.

    Rachel

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  2. Thanks for taking this beautiful meditation even further. It gave me a new perspective on the Sign of Peace!

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  3. Dearest Heather: I was brought to tears by our pastor's homily this weekend. The gospel was "The Good Samaritan." It is along these lines again that Barry comes up again in this blog and in Magnificat, in the gospel in Mass AND in my own life. Father said that God loves my enemy as much as he loves me. That is so hard to swallow sometimes in the midst of a family betrayal which I am experiencing. I reach out my hand and heart only to be bitten, but then I must retreat and forgive and pray for them. How difficult a task! It is not unlike shaking Barry's hand, giving him a couple of bucks for booze and then walking on - to Mass. I am walking on and gazing at the Savior who died for me and asking blessings on all of them.

    Thank you, as always. Because I carefully listened to the gospel, to Fr. Peter and to you, I am able to get through this day in prayer and forgiveness and actually love my neighbor as myself. Love and blessings to you, Heather.

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  4. Love this! Your honesty moves me.

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  5. I too love your honesty, but it is so sad. Jesus rose from the dead to give you life, joy, peace--a thrilling life. Here is a link to a blog filled with Christianity that celebrates the new life of Jesus: http://www.feminagirls.com/. Thank you for your writing and life. There can be so much more.

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  6. Oh that IS my life, joy, peace, Mikel, to say hi to Barry, to trudge to Mass!

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  7. And I actually don't believe there IS "more." There are different variations--a parent with children, a monk, an artist, a workman or workwoman; any of the innumerable vocations of the follower of Christ--but there is nothing deeper on this earth, no higher calling, than descending into the suffering heart of humanity: ours and everyone else's. Suffering doesn't preclude joy; it precludes any kind of facile "prosperity Gospel."

    Christ said "Blessed are the poor in spirit" because the poor in spirit have tapped into the mother lode of goodness, beauty, compassion, truth, and as I always say, humor...

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  8. Right on, Heather. This is why I LOVE being Catholic. Thank you for the beautiful reflections.

    Todd

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  9. Your posts just blow me away! I strive to be holy, like you, and many times I forget it is these simple, raw gestures that bring us to holiness. Thank you.

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  10. How can there be anything more to life than making a social outcast believe, for even just a moment, that he or she is of worth?!!! How can there by anything more than extending your hand to someone who is told all day long, whether through action or deed, that they are repulsive? Thank you Heather, for being among those who perceive their life's purpose to include, if not be made entirely of, extending love to the downtrodden! What a beautiful life you lead!

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  11. I play around some with the idea that I am one step - one shortcoming, betrayal, mistake, job loss, hardship, failure - away from being that individual in the street, begging for money to feed my addictions. And maybe I am really two or three steps away from being in their shoes, but recognizing this has assisted me in 1) being grateful for what I do have, even when it seems minute and 2) seeing them as my equal, if not greater!

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  12. I am about the LEAST holy person you are ever going to meet, ACB. All my striving has come to naught. Surrender seems to be the watchword...Thanks for your readership and support!

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  13. “It is commonly said that joy is the opposite of sorrow and that these two spiritual or corporeal impressions are incompatibles….How can people be made to understand that at a certain height they are the same thing and that it is easy for a heroic soul to make them so? Where are they today, the heroic souls?...”
    --Léon Bloy

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  14. In the Magnificat, in the july issue, I read your beautiful reflection. It touched me so much that I translated it into Spanish to give it to some people. I gave away the English version I wish you could post the whole thing. .I am learning to see Christ in the poor. What an experience! Cecilia

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