The Apostolate of the Laity

Waxing philosophical in communion with one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.

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Location: Portland, Oregon, United States

I am just a sinner who holds fast to the notion that every human being on the planet is the result of a thought of God.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Planes, Trains, and Strangers

At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.
Matthew 9:36

There's an interesting experience one sometimes encounters when stepping onto a crowded bus, train, or plane. Gazing at the crowd of strangers of various backgrounds, origins and ethnicities, and knowing that each is related to one by a common creator yet separated by a fallen history, there exists a tendency to question in one's mind which of these souls might share a common baptism in Christ. This is done not in a judgmental fashion, but rather approximates the empathy with Our Lord when he saw the crowds and thirsted for their salvation.

Granted, not every one has this experience. One who has no knowledge of Jesus, or who has immersed himself into the fantastical belief of a non-communal, purely individualistic, personal relationship with Christ likely does not ponder this thought. For the believer who has been given the treasure of faith, the drive to share this treasure can often lead one to venture into a desire to proclaim the Gospel yet prudence dictates a more reserved response. Suddenly bursting into preaching likely would get one tossed under the bus or escorted off the plane by Homeland Security officials.

So the only resource left, which is highly underrated, remains prayer. A simple prayer that all those strangers within one's midst might one day share in the wedding feast. This prayer is not made with arrogance like the Pharisee in the parable who engaged in a prayer of self-puffery and then thanked God that he wasn't like the tax collector who had come into the temple to pray. It is a humble prayer of hope that at the very least one might have the opportunity impart what one has come to believe because the truth is so mysteriously awesome.

What proves more wondrous is when one walks into a Catholic church away from one's own home parish. Here, too, are a group of strangers, but the sense of being alone quickly evaporates as more brothers and sisters in communion gather to encounter the mass. One might be a distant relative, but no matter what parish church a Catholic Christian finds his way into, a sense of being home exists.

The question, today, is when Christ catches sight of the crowd with whom does His pity rest? It's tempting to conclude that it must be with that crowd of non-believers that one might presume occupy the majority of seats on the plane. In point of fact, the possibility must be considered that His pity finds its way to the priestly people who are supposed to take his word to the masses, but choose not to do so.

Consider for a moment that the uninformed maintain a degree of innocence by virtue of ignorance. Those who have heard the good news but rejected it have had their fair shake. But those who have accepted the Gospel, but then choose to keep it to themselves or at the most keep it within the confines of the walls of their church are perhaps the ones in most need of Christ's mercy. God gives few exclusive gifts to the individual. Most are given for the benefit of others, and the soul that has had faith leavened by grace has indeed experienced a windfall of wealth that must flow to the community at large.

The form of this sharing corresponds to the gifts one has been given. For some it might be simply living the Christian life for others to witness. Some are called to teach and still others to preach, but regardless, the talents must be multiplied for the glory of God.

Just a thought to ponder the next time one steps onto the plane, bus or train.


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