*Pardon the absence of columns over the past month! Seminary life and being on the road the last few weeks are making things kind of crazy! - Rusty
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that all who believe in Him might not perish but have eternal life” –John 3:16
May the Lord give you His peace!
A few weeks ago I found myself in Newark, New Jersey at St. Rita’s homeless shelter. A religious brother who is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and I were leading a bible study and discussion with men and women staying at the shelter. Our discussion was centered upon the passage in which Jesus says that the Good Shepherd will leave the 99 sheep just to go after the one who was lost and how much rejoicing there will be in Heaven when one sinner returns and repents of his sins.
When we finished reading the verse, I was unsure of what to expect with our new friends at the shelter. How would they react? What would they say? However, I was both blessed and humbled to listen and experience the humanity that was before me. It was one of those moments where I said to myself, “this is what Jesus was talking about! This is the Gospel alive right in front of me!”
So many of the men and women told stories of how Jesus was working in their lives. Some of them did not have jobs, or money or any family members to support them. Some were alcoholics, addicted to drugs, and caught in what seemed like a never-ending cycle of bad decisions and impossible circumstances. But beyond all that they faced, they still had hope. Some said they owed their whole life to Jesus because of particular circumstances that ended up working out. Others talked about everyday life experiences where they could see the hand of Jesus and His love. Whether it was finding money to pay the bills or receiving milk from the neighbors to feed the baby, or being a part of their daughter’s wedding or simply just having a place to stay, a hot meal to eat, or a friend to lean on - I could see Jesus among them! He was working in their lives!
As I listened to all their stories I felt an overwhelming sense of Jesus as Savior in our lives. He was saving them and giving them new life. He was not allowing them to perish and fall beneath the weight of the world, but being close to them and rescuing them from all that burdens or things that hold them back. He truly is our Savior!
So what does that story have to do with us and the season of Lent? I couldn’t help but ask myself the question: “How is Jesus saving me?” I am often reminded how most of us focus on what Jesus is not doing in our lives and often we don’t stop to reflect on what He is doing. I learned so much from listening to the men and women at the homeless shelter as there was so much they could of be upset about, but they chose not to dwell on what they didn’t have but on what Jesus had given them. How is Jesus saving you in your life? What has He given you this Lent to embrace?
Most of us have shelter, food, and are taken care of financially. And most of us have a family who is supportive and friends to walk with us through life. So our “issues” are different from those who might be materially poor, but we all need to be saved. In listening to young people and dealing with life myself, I see Jesus using His saving power everyday. He saves us when we turn away from that one sin that has been keeping from Him. He saves us when we decide that with His grace we do not want to be lazy anymore and commit to a life of prayer. He saves us when we choose to turn away from lustful and selfish relationships and choose to live in chastity and purity. He saves us when we finally understand that gossip is hurtful to others and that no one deserves to be talked about in a negative way. And He saves us from the cheap imitation of happiness that our culture has given us and leads us to find true life in Him. My friends, praise the Father who sent us only Son to save us!
This week, reflect on your life and see where the saving power of our Lord is present. Rejoice in His presence and His love as He reaches out to us in every moment to save us from our sins and lead us to ever lasting life.
May God bless our friends at St. Rita’s shelter as they were a great reminder of our God who truly came to save us. May Mary our hope give us the grace we need to follow in His way.
May God be praised!
God Bless You,