(Prayer offered on the Public Address system for the entire La Salle Academy educational community on Thursday morning, 12 January 2017–4th day of Haiti Solidarity Week)
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
Let us remember that we are in the holy presence of God.
A story is told from the days when things cost much less (even before I was a little kid, though not much before!). A young boy asked the price of an ice cream sundae. The waitress replied fifty cents. Studying his coins, he inquired about a dish of plain ice cream. “Thirty-five cents” was the reply. After again counting his coins, he ordered plain ice cream. Finishing the ice cream, the boy paid the cashier and left. When the waitress came back to clear the table, she swallowed hard at what she saw: placed neatly beside the empty dish were two nickels and five pennies.
A much earlier story from the New Testament offers a similar lesson. The poor widow in the synagogue stood in the rear while her wealthy counterparts stood up front for all to see as they gave their offerings. She, on the other hand, dropped two small copper coins into the synagogue treasury. Jesus says to his listeners: “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
Each of us has many gifts, not the least of which is disposable income. We live in a prosperous nation where food and water are plentiful and available. We do not have to worry about electric power and wi-fi connections. Our homes give us shelter and keep us warm. If we do not drive our own cars or a family car, we have accessibility to buses to get us where we need to get. We study or work in a well-kept school with books and computers and LCD projectors and Smart Boards. Our holidays brought us new clothes and shoes and electronic toys, probably more than we needed. And we begin 2017 not fearing for our livelihood and happiness. For all of this we are grateful that, in God’s great design, we were born into this plenitude.
However, this is not true for all people in our world. Our brothers and sisters in Haiti have far less in material goods. Their nation sits on a fault line for earthquakes and is in the power-alley of strong Atlantic hurricanes. In early October of this past year Category 5 Hurricane Matthew smashed into the island nation and did further damage to a country already compromised by the powerful earthquake that had devastated its capital Port-au-Prince seven years ago today.
We might be tempted to say that God is unfair. Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do people suffer? Why do people die? These are the great questions that people have asked for ages. I, for one, have not come across an answer that satisfies me, but that does not keep me from living while I still ponder that great mystery!
So what do I and what do we do in the face of human-made and natural disasters, when confronted with the many faces of poverty? Our common humanity and our Christian faith don’t allow us to close our eyes and pretend these things do not exist, our heads buried in the sand. We could give our spare change in response—-pat ourselves on the back like the wealthy worshipers in the Gospel who give with a great display, and then continue on our merry-old-way, our consciences satisfied until the next time we are asked to give. Or we could, like the young boy in that ice cream parlor, sacrifice a hot fudge sundae for a dish of plain ice cream.
Think about what you are going to do tomorrow when the manila envelope is passed around your homeroom to assist our Lasallian brothers and sisters at the Saint John Baptist de La Salle School in Haiti. Will you give out of your excess and out of your wealth (dropping in $5.00 to wear your favoirte comfy clothes) OR will you give in such a way that it hurts? Whatever your ice cream sundae is that you really want, will you give it up for less in order to help those have incredibly less than we have? No one will be peeking over your shoulder to check what you will give, whether the $5.00 minimum or more than $5.00—it is all up to you!
Let us pray:
Lord, help us each day to give freely—to give thanks, to share love, to offer care. For it is indeed in giving that we receive. Amen.
Saint John Baptist de La Salle…pray for us.
Live Jesus in our hearts…forever.
Brother Frederick Mueller, FSC