Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Christ is in our Midst!
The horror of Katrina surely has affected all of us. Images of death and devastation on the Gulf Coast and in the city of New Orleans that have largely impacted the poorest among our citizenry cannot fail to move us deeply unless our hearts are hardened to the suffering of others. A friend of mine in Houston told me of a woman from New Orleans she met who had managed to escape the devastated city. She told of the terror ol living through Katrina and of seeing the bodies of dead children floating by her house as she perched with her family on the roof of their inundated home. We have all heard stories, but they are not merely sad tales, they represent real human tragedies.
Abraham Lincoln once said, "I care not for a man's religion whose dog or cat are not the better for it."Our faith will not allow us to buy in to excuses, official or otherwise, for neglecting the suffering of others. it is our responsibility to do all we can to alleviate poverty, hunger, disease, war, pollution, and anything that harms our fellow human beings. "Blessed are the peacemakers." refers to those who understand that peace is more than the absence of overt physical violence, but of everything that disturbs the well-being of any and all. We must expect it first of ourselves, but also from our elected officials. The job is so big that all our personal and corporate resources as a nation are needed to make any significant difference.
The Kingdom of Heaven resides in the heart of every baptized soul as leaven in a lump of dough. All that is needed is warmth to make it rise. Warmth is generated by love, love for God and for our neighbors, love that is more than pious platitudes. The only thing that will be recognized as "true religion" on the great and final day is an active faith, a faith that reaches out to the "least of the brethren" in real time, in concrete ways. We are our brother's and sister's keeper.
What we must do is cultivate a heart full of loving-kindness and compassion every day so that when the need arises we will be ready to respond at a moment's notice. We need to create in us the warmth necessary to make the dough rise. The is done through prayer and meditation, through the practice of virtue for the sake of Christ, through a deliberate effort to cleanse and purify the heart and mind and through the practice of love.
We "carry as in vessels of clay, that is in our bodies, the light of the Father, in the person of Jesus Christ, in which we know the Holy Spirit" (St. Gregory Palamas). If this is so, then shouldn't our lives reflect this miraculous reality? Shouldn't this above all competing "truths" be the determining factor of all we do, say and think?
Your servant in Christ,
Fr. Antony Hughes