My wife and I just returned from our annual mission trip to San Lucas Tolimán in Guatemala. Although we work on a variety of projects while we are there, including construction, reforestation, and coffee, it is spending time with the local people that I enjoy the most. The main town has continued to change over the years, modernize some, but the surrounding small villages have preserved a purity, simplicity, and peacefulness that is in great contrast to what we have become accustomed to.
Many of the children in the small villages still run and play without wearing shoes.The girls all wear brightly-colored woven clothing. And when a foreigner arrives they are quickly approached by the children with fearless and trusting curiosity. There are no iPods, gaming systems, cell phones, or texting amongst the children. Relationships are cultivated, nourished, and maintained directly and face to face.
Everywhere you go there is laughing, giggles, and smiles. One would not thinking of walking past another person without acknowledging their presence and greeting each other with either a “Buenos Dias”, “Buenas Tardes”, or “Como Estas”. These wonderful people have been preserved from the inward selfishness and self-centeredness that has become pandemic in our culture today.
As I watched the local Mayan people, and visited with a few of the friends that we have made there over the years, I quickly realized that their lives contain much more struggle and strife than my life does. Nutritious food can be scare at times. The water supply is infected with Amoebas. Many of the village people have chronic illness and have no means of obtaining help. Yet, they smile, laugh, and are optimistic about the future. They even graciously welcome strangers into their lives and treat them as a gift from God.
The faith of the Guatemalan people is deep and encompasses their entire life. These marvelous people fervently participate in the Mass unlike anything I have witnessed before. They sing at the top of their lungs. They pray with such deep emotion. And despite a church overflowing, there is complete reverence for the Sacred Mass. Maybe it has to do with their deep struggle in life. Or maybe is has to do with not knowing when they will again have Mass since routine Mass is not guaranteed. But, When the Mass is over, and the exit procession is complete, everyone in the church lowers down upon their knees for a few minutes of silent prayer before leaving, this is a quiet time for personal prayer and for thanking God for the holy encounter. There isn’t a single person who leaves Mass after communion, or who would ever think of leaving Mass early. What a wonderful example of faithfulness, honor, and respect.
In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks of his word as being a seed. He speaks of 4 different kinds of people who receive it.
- One who hears it but doesn’t understand it.
- One who hears it, understands it, but allows the message to quickly fade away.
- One who hears it, understands it, but allows worldly ways to push it aside.
- And one who hears it, understands it, embraces it, and nourishes it, while allowing it to grow, and then receives great benefit from it. Let us take a minute and honestly think about our own lives, our relationships with others, and the quality of our personal and intimate relationship with Christ.
¿Which of the four people that Christ is talking about best describes us?
Let’s ask ourselves a few questions that might help us discern where we are spiritually right now. Is our faith at the forefront of our lives? Do we truly appreciate what we have in the Holy Mass? Are the relationships with others in our lives more important than anything else? Do we embrace strangers and the encounters with them as a gift from God? Do we regularly express external kindness more often than not?
Christ sews seeds in all soil, good and bad. We are that soil. In order to receive it and for it to bear fruit we have much work to do in our lives. We must begin by removing the objects within us that would prevent growth, be it jealously, pride, or lust. We must take Christ’s words to heart and act upon them, graciously serving those around us. We must nourish our mind with learning the faith, studying the saints, and listening to our Pope. We must get rid of the toxic things in our lives by using the sacrament of Confession regularly, choosing our friends wisely, and scrutinizing what we read, watch on TV, and search out on the internet. And finally, getting to know in a deep, profound, and intimate way, who Christ is in the Holy Eucharist. Everything of who we are, and who we are called to be, originates right here in the Eucharist. He is the Source and Summit of our lives.
Isn’t that all we want as well? To be heard and loved!
Maybe all we need to do in life is to hold one another.
Hold each other close and invite others into our lives.
To turn our gaze and focus outward.
Make each other laugh.
And simply, to just love one another, to love as Christ has loved us.