Monday, 19 August 2013

‘A band of brothers (and sisters)

Last night (August 15th) Cardinal Tagle visited our parish church of Our Lady of the Assumption for Mass and to bless the newly renovated church. 

The walls of a church, it has been suggested, store within themselves the prayers of the faithful; and in time I am sure that’s true. In the beginning though they are cemented together with toil, sweat, sacrifice and pain. I am referring of course to one of the major fundraising events, where the 1500 ‘volunteers’ in the inappropriately named ‘Fun Run’, gave their all.

In his homily the Cardinal warned against arrogance and lifting oneself up saying it is better to wait for God to lift you up. Similarly he spoke against competitiveness especially in the church. 

Perhaps more than a few of us took that to heart. Whilst the fun run probably was enjoyable for the youngsters, and the old ladies walking their dogs, for the men of a certain age it became a bit more serious. Whilst the glory of 1st place would certainly not be attained, the humiliation of last was to be avoided. Thus as the theme tune to Chariots of Fire rose to a crescendo (in my head), we were off. The wind was howling through thinning hair, as an overweight pack of ageing warriors pounded the tarmac to dust all the while being shadowed by a private ambulance hoping for a customer as blood pressures rose, arteries constricted and cartilage and bone grinded.

The outgoing Mayor of Manila, Fred Lim, presented the prizes at the event in May, the incoming Mayor, former President Joseph Estrada attended last night’s celebration Mass; the Laurel wreath of glory fades quickly for politicians as for our runners; as we too acquired (painfully) a sense of our own mortality.  But it was good to be part of it, the lesson learned; generations will worship there now, live and die under the new roof and sturdy walls.

It’s not so much about the building really, but community. It’s a poor parish, but everyone participated somehow in this massive project of rebuilding, even the Parish priest was offering to take in laundry to stress the need for participation and all responded, at least for this moment in time all stood together, a band of brothers and sisters.

Friday, 16 August 2013

‘Daily bread’

I heard a story recently that sparked an inspiration. It was about a man who was on his way home from shopping and he passed a young woman, a street dweller from her attire, who seemed in great distress. There’s a look in someone’s eyes that tells you that they are about to cave-in or give up hope. She had that look. All he had handy was a bunch of bananas and giving that seemed an inadequate response.

The rest of the short distance home he prayed for the woman, with more than a dash of self-pity for himself too. He would like to have been able to help but was unemployed and the roof over his own head was thanks to the good graces of another. If only God had given him a job and an income he could do a lot for others in need. His conscience seemed to answer him as he thought that the best thing would be to do what he could in the moment.

On arriving home he resolved to do just that; flung open the cupboards and set about preparing a few items. A tin of sardines, a sandwich box with a few slices of bread, a sachet of ketchup from a fast food outlet, a bottle of water, a clean t-shirt and a couple of the aforementioned bananas and then hurried back to the place he had seen the woman. She was still sat on the pavement, leaning against the wall of a building, a tormented and now slightly embarrassed look on her face as he dropped off the package with a few words. As he walked away her face brightened a little as she investigated the contents of the bag. A little light shone in the darkness of her situation; an immediate need met.

The story put me in mind of the part of the Our Father where we ask for our daily bread. For many it’s a matter of routine having already secured rather more than the daily bread, the weekly wage, the monthly salary, the annual pension or even state benefit ticks that box. For others it is a real plea from the heart, one which Our Father does answer, but he does need the cooperation of those he has already blessed in abundance.

Often people think they can do nothing to change the world, but the truth is that however short we may be or perceive ourselves to be, there is no one who can do nothing, we can all help our neighbor just by doing what we can in the moment as it’s presented to us. If the roles were reversed, what would we hope for or expect?