Going the distance

Beyond the doors of our day-to-day lives, there is so much hatred and mistrust of our fellow brothers and sisters, yet we experience moments in our lives that show us that we really are no different under the skin. 

Recently I experienced Christian Leadership Institute for the sixth time, and with all honesty, I can say it does not get old. It was an amazing week surrounded by youth from around our great diocese. These were young women and men who would generally not have come together under normal circumstances. Individuals whose paths would most likely never have crossed; yet, here was a group of teen-agers who not only worked together to accomplish all that was required of them as leaders, but who also recognized each other as family (or as some of the teens would say “fam”). 

We often wonder if the Holy Spirit is too busy to intervene in our lives, does God really get involved in the small details or is He more present in the larger picture or scheme of things? After spending a week with an incredible team, and even more incredible youth, I have no doubt in my mind that God is in everything. His Holy Spirit was very much a part of every little nuance, from the immediate coming together of a very diverse group, to the interactions of every person from team and support to youth. 

CLI was a week of glimpsing the love Christ had shown to all He encountered when He walked with us upon this earth, and continues to shows us through those we encounter. An opportunity to see through a lens of acceptance, warmth and love; of recognizing the child of God within, without judgment or prejudices, allowing ourselves to fully experience a love with no boundaries. 

These teen-agers will now go out into their communities with a new sense of hope, of commitment and a very different view of the world around them. They, like the Apostles in this Sunday’s Gospel reading from Mark (6:30-34), will go out not only teaching with their words, but by their actions as well. They, like each and every one of us, are asked to help gather up the flock, help find those who are lost and are in desperate need of a shepherd and lead them into the fold. Shepherds who not only take on the responsibility of leading, but who willingly take on the scent of the very flock they shepherd. 

This is by no means an easy task, but one that is so very needed in this world we live in. A world that has chosen to see individuals by their race, creed, color, etc., scattering and driving the flock away, misleading them with their narrow-mindedness and biases. In this Sunday’s first reading from Jeremiah (23:1-4), God warns us against such actions, and promises to develop leaders from among His people who will provide for His flock. 

These young teen-agers who came together during the CLI experience are such as these, they are the shepherds who will step forward from their flocks to lead not only other youth into the fold, but adults as well. Their love, compassion and empathy, will move even the most steadfast of mountains. They are the arms and legs, eyes and ears, heart and soul, of the One true Body of Christ; allowing the Spirit to move through them for the benefit of all those they encounter. 

Are we willing to put aside our own misconceptions and pride? Are we willing to look into the eyes of our family, friends, neighbors and the strangers we meet along the way, and allow ourselves to see the child of God within? Are we willing to step out of ourselves and view others through the lenses of compassion and love? There is a Native American poem, "Walk a Mile in His Moccasins” that reminds us of the need to be kindhearted to others. The final verses of the poem sum up beautifully all that God expects and wants from us, and what these teen-agers so beautifully demonstrated during their week together.

“Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his Spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.

Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.
Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”

The flock of God waits for those willing to “Go the distance.”

Anchor columnist Rose Mary Saraiva lives in Fall River and is a parishioner of St. Michael’s Parish, and she is the Events Coordinator and Bereavement Ministry for the diocesan Office of Faith Formation. She is married with three children and two grandchildren. rsaraiva@dfrcs.com.

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