“And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)
Back in the Fall of 2009 I was privileged to travel to Central America to visit the houses of Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos in Guatemala, El Salvador & Nicaragua. Since 1954, Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos has been caring for orphaned and abandoned children throughout Central & South America and the Caribbean. The journey was taken with my friends Fr. David Boettner and John Deinhart and was hosted by Fr. Ron Hicks who at that time was serving as the Central American Director of NPH. As our national conversation has recently turned to the dilemma facing the United States over thousands of children who have made their way from Central America to the border of our country, I could not help but to reflect upon a few things I have learned through my connection to the children of NPH.
One of the most surprising and disheartening things I was to learn on our trip was the large number of children in these countries who are homeless and living with no connection to a family. My first direct experience of this reality was on my first trip to Central America in 2001. While we were visiting a village that had been almost completely destroyed during the civil war in Guatemala, a group of children came over to talk to me. I learned from them that their parents had been killed during the war along with several of their siblings. Since then, this group of children had been living together on the streets, doing the best they could to survive without a family. The mission of NPH is to care for children like the ones I met, but I also learned from Fr. Ron that the number of children in need far outweighs the resources that are available. [click to continue…]
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15-17)
This past week I have been attending the annual Campus Ministry Leadership Institute in San Antonio, TX with student leaders from the ETSU Catholic Center. Each year CMLI gathers ministry teams from US colleges and universities to learn leadership skills and to plan projects for their campuses in the coming year.
Yesterday evening we were privileged to have Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller with us to celebrate the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. He gave a powerful homily which focused on the call given to each of us by Christ to care for those most vulnerable among us. The Gospel reading today recalls St. Peter’s encounter with Christ beside the Sea of Galilee which occurred after the resurrection. Archbishop Garcia-Siller noted something in Jesus’ words to St. Peter that I had not thought of before. He pointed out that the first instruction given was to care for the lambs. In other words, our call as Christians is to care for those most in need, without neglecting the entire Body of Christ. The Archbishop’s suggestion was that each of us is given these “Galilee moments” daily in which our Lord invites us to care for the smallest among us. [click to continue…]
“I love bunt plays. I love the idea of the bunt. I love the idea of the sacrifice. Even the word is good; giving yourself up for the good of the whole. That’s Jeremiah. That’s thousands of years of wisdom. You find your own good in the good of the whole. You find your own individual fulfillment in the success of the community. The Bible tried to do that and didn’t teach you. Baseball did.”
— Mario Cuomo
Earlier this week on the Carolina Baseball Pilgrimage, I heard a woman behind me commenting to her family about a runner who had just been thrown out. “Aww….he sacrificed himself!” Her family chuckled at her remark, but she is correct to note that sacrifice is a routine part of the game of baseball. Sometimes the batter will intentionally bunt the ball in order to move a runner closer to scoring position, even though it will likely result in an out.
As the game continues to be increasingly influenced by Sabermetrics, there are more and more people who will argue that bunting is not necessarily a winning strategy. But many times sacrifice plays do work and they point to a greater lesson which is frequently highlighted in baseball– that sacrifice is often necessary for the greater good. While I’m not sure I would concur with Mario Cuomo’s observation that the Bible has failed to teach sacrifice where baseball has succeeded, I wholehearted agree that baseball illustrates what the Christian faith holds up as a virtue. Christ’s sacrifice of himself on the cross is at the center of our belief and we are called to follow him in laying down our lives in sacrifice so that the world might live. The martyrs are especially instructive when it comes to this, as their love mirrors the love of God through their willingness to give everything they have for the sake of others.
I hope the next time you’re at the baseball park and you see a player lay down a bunt, it will remind you of the call we Christians have to engage in self sacrifice daily. We don’t all have to be home run hitters to contribute to the team. Doing small things well every day adds up in the long run.