Daily Reflection
July 11th, 2000
John Fitzgibbons, S.J.
English Department
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Saint Benedict, abbot - Memorial 
Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13
Psalms 115:3-10
Matthew 9:32-38

One of my dearest friends is a lay missioner with Maryknoll in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  She works with women who prostitute to support their families and, often, a drug habit.  Her schedule is exhausting:  visiting the women on the street and in prison, working in local parish halls and shelters, leading workshops on self-esteem, and doing grassroots legal advocacy with local police officials and magistrates.  Twelve- and fourteen-hour days are common and since she doesn't have a car but uses public transportation in a city of 12 million people, everything takes extra time.

Heidi has learned lots in her years of work in Sao Paulo, but one thing stands out for me as a I read her letters -- she has learned to live in the present moment.  That is, Heidi harvests life at every street corner, savors life with every breath, and imparts life in every moment of her all-too-busy day.  When I asked her how one can do all this so very well, so naturally, she mused, smiled, and then said "I look into the faces of real people and know that, for me, there is no choice.  Life demands too much energy to live in 'what-ifs' or unreal fantasy of how things should be or could be.  I simply love what I do and want to do nothing else right now."

Here's the grace of it:  somehow living in the present moment and loving these women who are outcasts hones Heidi's idealism and hope for more life.  In other words, the future we all long for, the Reign of God, is found in the present moment.

It seems to me that is what Jesus senses in today's gospel passage from Matthew (9:32-38).  After a long series of stunning cures -- a hemorragic woman, the raising of a synagogue official's daughter, the cure of two blind men, and the exorcism of a possessed man -- Jesus breathlessly looks out over the crowd.  Instead of shrinking away, his heart fills with compassion and sorrow for the multitude "because they were harassed and dejected."  Surely he, too, was exhausted!  Yet what issues from his mouth is a prayer for more ministers of mercy:  "The harvest is good, but the laborers are scarce.  Beg the harvester to send laborers to gather the harvest."

I think what gives Jesus and my friend from Brazil the energy and the heart to labor and live so well in the present is an insight.  It's hard to name exactly, but the insight starts when looking into the eyes of someone who needs.  It grows when we reach out and heal by caring.  It becomes a harvest when a community begins to act this way. 

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