“Though they go forth weeping, …
For the past few weeks, we have watched and read about the disasters of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath that struck the US gulf area. The constant news coverage brought the pain and suffering of the residents of the south gulf area into our homes and our hearts. Rescue and relief efforts continue as hundreds of thousands of the residents have been evacuated to other cities, towns and states as the work of clean-up and recovery of the region begins.
As I reflected on today’s first scripture reading, images and stories of the outpouring of aid and assistance to the multitude of people displaced by the hurricane came to mind. In the Book of Ezra, Cyrus, the king of Persia had proclaimed that the Israelites are to be allowed to return to their homeland to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. The people of Persia were commanded: “Let everyone who has survived, in whatever place they have lived, be assisted by the people of that place with silver, gold, goods, and cattle, together with free-will offerings for the house of God in Jerusalem.”
As many cities across our nation became host to airplane and busloads of people displaced by the New Orleans catastrophe, I realized that the journey for many of the evacuees has just begun. Many families continue to search for lost relatives and friends. People hope to travel to their loved ones when contact is made. Others may choose to settle in their new surroundings. Many may wish to return home to what is familiar to them as soon as that is possible.
Perhaps our greater challenge in responding to the people of New Orleans and the gulf area will be to listen to their wants and needs…helping them to re-assemble a life, either in their new surroundings or as they prepare to return home in the future. This is what Cyrus commanded the people of Persia to do for the Israelite people…to provide for the people so that they could rebuild their life in Jerusalem and their temple.
In Jesus’ parable of a lamp set out to give light so that all can see, he is talking about the importance of hearing God’s word and living it. It is not enough to read and agree that we are to “…love our neighbor as oneself.” We need to respond to the meaning of the sacred word of God…to make God’s presence real in our midst…our everyday world.
Perhaps most of us will not have the opportunity to directly connect one-on-one with the people scattered from their gulf homes, but will offer our assistance in financial gifts.
However, in our day to day lives, how do we respond to God’s word? With our family, co-workers, classmates, people who wait on us in grocery stores, or other places of service? Often times, the living out of the command to, “…love our neighbor as oneself” conjures up images of people in dire need. But perhaps the more difficult response is in our day to day meetings with people.
Do I truly seek to respond to another’s needs/wants or am I tempted to respond in a way that is comfortable or logical to me, or designed by ‘my’ perceptions?
My prayer is that I do take time to step back from my needs and to listen to what another names as her/his need. In other words, am I open to learning to become a light of God’s loving embrace and presence to others as revealed by people who are in need?
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