United with the nation and the world we pause in grief at the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It is with respect for her and the leadership she offered that changed the world, the transition from the empire to the Commonwealth and particularly her condemnation of racism and the Apartheid regime, first steps in liberation for Africa. We join our hearts to those who deeply mourn her passing of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.
For us as a nation we also remember those who died in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center September 11, 2001. A day that changed our nation and has left an indelible mark that has set a new direction in our relationship with one another as citizens as well as with the rest of the world. We are called to stand against hatred and violence, and embrace those who suffer and grieve at the great impact that hostility, brutality and prejudice has had on so many who seek a new life and freedom in our nation.
This week as we reflect on a familiar Gospel of the lost sheep and prodigal son we are called to open our hearts in a new way. We hear a message of forgiveness, value, and celebration for the lost, the broken and misplaced as being welcomed into the house and arms of the Father. To be reunited, restored and welcomed has the ability to transform and restores lives for the wellbeing of the broken that they can become instruments of healing for others.
We are reminded this week of a nation and word that is in so much need. From being lost, disconnected, out of place we have created divisions that separate us in such a way that we have become our own enemies. Blind following of lies and misinformation has caused many to become completely out of step, misguided, self centered and self absorbed and we are in domestic and global crisis that impacts us all. The gravity of our internal and international challenges must be addressed first within ourselves and the communities in which we live. One can easily be overwhelmed by what we hear and see on a daily basis. Whether it be newspapers and journals to podcasts, internet, our devices, cable television, or the news we are inundated and overwhelmed with messaging that appears dismal.
Five years ago, we embarked on a diocesan wide journey to Courageously Live the Gospel. To be a living witness and catalyst for grassroots change. To courageously live in ways that seeks out the lost, the hungry and disenfranchised through our outreach ministries. With little resources but with great support we continue new and even greater initiatives to restore, assist and guide those on the peripheries here.
As we see the completion of our youth center and develop initial programs for our parish and community youth we are already reaching, embracing and envisioning new opportunities for engagement that meet the needs of our neighborhood, with a playground and affordable housing complex. These projects and programs are designed to meet the daily needs of so many in need here. Our gaze becomes focused on the needy, suffering, homeless, and forgotten right here. As I’ve said over and over, we have the ability to transform our world by impacting and reshaping where we are in our own small section of the Southside of St. Petersburg.
The scriptures speak to us first of a people who had become lost, misguided and disconnected from the very God who had liberated them. The Lord who had given them their identity as a people and who had stretched out His hand to save them, was regretting and seeking to punish those who had grown impatient forgetting what God had done for them.
The lost the misguided and broken of our community find themselves on the peripheries, marginalized and in need of being restored, healed and respected. The fact that so many come to our doors hungry, desperately in search of food so that they can use their income to pay rent or buy medicine. We choose feed and provide for those who are hungry, we don’t turn away nor condemn but buildup and restore. In this way we respond to the invitation to courageously live the Gospel. The intentional seeking and lifting up the lost, as the shepherd does with the one sheep that has gone astray, is our response. We search and pursue those who’ve been broken and disconnected just as the women searches for her lost coin in the Gospel. She valued this from her wedding headdress and when she found she called her friends to rejoice. Through an affordable housing initiative, we develop housing providing a place to call home for those who struggle with high rent. This great work will be a cause that we can champion, and we too find cause for great rejoicing.
The Gospel takes on meaning when we reach out and seek to partnership with organizations and institutions within our own community to give our youth options and opportunities. A youth center for youth 13-18 the most challenged demographic in our community says to them and all who encounter us that our youth matter, not only do they matter but they are a priority.
Let’s seek out and open our arms to all those who desire to come home to the Father’s house where they can be accepted, received, embraced and loved. All are valued here in the Fathers House!