I was running an errand after daily Mass at my parish and passed New York Foundling—founded by the Sisters of Charity in 1869 as a home for children, its “extensive network of community based services provides havens for children whose safety is at risk, loving foster and group facilities to protect children and support for families to strengthen them.” (from their website, http://www.nyfoundling.org)
There is a small placard fixed by their front door that I had never seen before earlier this week. On the placard is Foundling’s three word mission. Beautifully succinct, expressive of commitment, and above all, boldly clear—“Abandon No one.”
The simplicity of that, the stark call of that, prompted a shrug of my shoulder to lower my bag and fish around for pen and notebook, though in reality I knew I would not forget those words.
Several days later, I was on the 4/5/6 train headed downtown and noticed what I first thought were new “Poetry In Motion” signs posted above the seats. It turns out the quotations I was reading and enjoying were actually advertisements for a large, local, non-denominational Christian church. It might be better said that the cards were less advertisements than invitations… The one that prompted another pat down for pen and paper is this—“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing…to find the place where all beauty came from.” C.S. Lewis
Most mornings my ritual follows a similar pattern. I head downstairs, put the water on or make coffee, get the mug ready for either tea or coffee, fix a bowl of oatmeal, and take both of those along with my missal and notebook into the living room where I tuck into the corner of the couch to pray and begin the day. Within the first several sips, I hear the whack of the New York Times arriving. I retrieve it, sort out the sections, and return to my spot with the front pages. First, though, the readings in the missal…followed by the front section of the paper. It occurred to me this morning, how well those two things go together.
So often, what I read in the paper I can only consider with eyes and a heart of faith…the suffering of so many, the atrocities, the wild misunderstandings of self, others, and the world, that lead to behaviors that harm…as well as acts of heroism, beauty, and daily humanity that touch the soul and encourage the spirit. Today’s reading from Sirach begins, “Come to our aid, O God of the Universe, look upon us and show us the light of your mercies…hear the prayer of your servants, for you are ever gracious to your people.”
The Gospel of today says that there are those who are amazed and those who are afraid…and that greatness is known only in terms of service and self-giving…the measure is not riches, or well stocked niches, or knowledge…but a willingness to lay down one’s life for another… to live within the challenge and the grace of God’s love as made manifest in Jesus.
Next week is Ash Wednesday. Forty days from now, who can know or predict the state of our world, especially given recent events? Approaching Lent this year, my prayer is this: As we journey together, the people of God, the church, may I seek to abandon no one, but instead offer prayer and service in the way and substance of my life… May I set my eyes upon the mysterious and beckoning beauty of God alive within and among creation and not fear what I encounter as I walk openly into the unknown “more” God promises… May I live ever amazed by love and desiring to embody what I receive so generously.