June 5, 2014

Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace

Nota - Este artículo es disponible en español aquí.   

When Isabel García approached the pulpit to read the Epistle to her congregation she had not felt that nervous since the Sunday when she preached her first homily. She had preached to her community of faith from that very same place and now they looked to her with great anticipation and pride.   

She had accepted the invitation to join the group of lay preachers with the condition that she would receive help in writing her own sermons so that they could be as unforgettable as the ones she was accustomed to hearing every Sunday. In turn, she would give her sermons her full attention, reflecting on their subject matter throughout the week. To Isabel, sermons were a central part of her life, something that she never missed. To her, the preaching, as she calls it, was as important as receiving the spiritual nourishment of the bread and the wine.   

Of course Isabel was offered everything she needed, and as many times as she needed it!   

The kind encouragement given to Isabel in her efforts to preach to her congregation was extremely important to her. It was what prompted her to explore with dedication all the biblical texts assigned to that Sunday. It filled me with joy to serve as her mentor. Seeing her smiling and sharing her ideas, at times with wonder and happiness, and at times with the eyes of a child. She savored each phrase, commenting on each image and finding multitudes of meaning in the messages that spoke of her life, her loved ones, and her community. 

By reading and exploring Isabel learned about the historic context of the biblical texts she had chosen to prepare her homily. She sought and found phrases that reminded her of her childhood, her journey when she left El Salvador—her country of origin—about the years spent in the country when she had her two children. She spoke of her history as a professional woman, dedicated to caring and serving her Latino community. 

Every time we met, Isabel’s spirituality and religiosity deepened. 

In our third and last meeting, Isabel managed to tie together all her loose ends and finish the homily. The way she chose to end it was through loving and heartfelt praise of her own mother, telling us a story of someone who, for her, was a tremendous presence. She gave examples of how she was raised, guided, and protected by her family and how her mother had helped the needy in her community. We saw in her an example of generosity and motherly tenderness, a way of being that should be emulated. We saw in her an example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd of that day’s Gospel reading. 

Then she invited us, as a congregation, to share praise of our own mothers or families with the person seated next to us. The people in our lives who are like the good shepherd, Jesus, who knows us and recognizes our voice when He hears us, whom we follow because we recognize His voice, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the way, the truth and the life. The life He invites us to embody in our own families, communities, and in the rest of the world. 

Isabel’s sense of the Spirit moving within her was so strong that she wept on several occasions the week after she preached. She felt that she was made an instrument offering messages of love, understanding, and gratitude. As was expected, there was not a single person in our community who did not feel very closely the greatness of Divine love through Isabel’s passionate words.