The other day in my neck of the woods, just as I was heading out the driveway to Mass, something sad happened. Three police cars raced down the street, parking haphazardly in front of a home where a large family lives. I don’t know what happened: on the front lawn a young woman cried, a father walked away, children were in distress, and an elderly couple talked with the police. All I could do was pray.
My faith teaches me that despite my inability to fix a situation, Christ wants me to pray. I figured everyone in that home needs prayers. A friend recently told me something she heard while attending Mass in Scotland: we need to pray for those who have no one to pray for them.
Why is this? The mere fact of our existence means that God loves us. Everyone who ever has lived is beloved by God. No matter what kind of a mess we make of our lives, God still loves us. We were conceived in love by God. When I judge others or try to avert my gaze from their distress, I try to imagine them as babies in their mother’s womb, deeply loved by God.
This insight might seem obvious. But my tendency, particularly since becoming a parent, has been to turn away from the pain of others, to cocoon myself in my own family and parish life, avoiding even thinking about others’ struggles. Sometimes I think, I don’t want to be dragged down by these people.
But Christ brings family, friends and neighbors to us. We are called to look upon them as He, in his overwhelming mercy and love, does.
“God revealed that He desires a personal relationship with us, one based on His very essence which He imprinted on our very nature; “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image and likeness….’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26f). What is this essence of God? “God is Love.” (1 John 4:8).
Reading Mark Twain’s Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc last night underlined this point for me once again. In the book’s first section, the narrator recounts a conversation between the young Joan and her village priest in Domrémy about imaginary fairies the children play with. Twain uses this fictional anecdote to show Joan’s understanding of Christ’s love.
When I read this passage, I thought about the people I condemn because their lives are a struggle or because they lack faith. Joan tells her priest: “Who gave these poor creatures a home? God. Who protected them in it all those centuries? God. Who allowed them to dance and play there all those centuries and found no fault with it? God. Who disapproved of God’s approval and put a threat upon them? A man.”
Sometimes, the wounds of the world in front of us seem too deep to bear. Or the confusion and emptiness of those who are lost can feel overwhelming. On this, for the Feast Day of the Assumption of Mary, we can pray.