Image via Wikipedia

Strolling through the sidewalks, the poverty is palpable.  Boarded-up homes are more common than not, garbage overcomes the front lawns where children play, and multiple families all huddle under the same small roof.  The presence of gangs is marked by t-shirt memorials hanging from fences and graffiti murals plastered to the sides of buildings.
At the same time, there is a presence of community that suburban neighborhood councils would envy.  Neighbors are out on front porches conversing as their children ride bikes and play in front of their homes.  People who pass on the street greet one another and swap their feelings on the weather, Bears football, and whether or not the NBA lockout will ever end.

“Hey! You got any of them chains?!”

The familiar inquiry interrupts our thoughts as we walk in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.  The question is really asking for a rosary, which creates for Brother Jim and his fellow walkers an open door through the barrier that divides them from the residents.

Conversations begin by people asking about the rosaries, but end in a myriad of ways.  Last week we had the privilege of praying over a teenager about to give birth to a daughter, visiting with a woman grappling with her son’s impending court case, and having a lengthy conversation with a resident originally from Cabrini Green, where the city has recently torn down the high-rise projects and relocated many of its residents.

In this final conversation, this man swapped stories with Brother Jim of common friends he had with Brothers and Sisters of Love, those living and those who became victims of the streets. He spoke about his own personal chains—unemployment, staying out of trouble and out of jail, and dealing with the surge of gang activity picking up in the area.

Upon first glance, the list of problems chaining this community seems endless: the prevalence of gang violence, teenage pregnancy, poor education, and housing concerns barely scratches the surface of the complexities weighing people down.

However, in speaking with community residents there seems to be a common desire for an exchange.  By speaking about their own chains, they lay them down in hopes of picking up what the rosary symbolizes—becoming chained to the hope that Christ offers.  In this type of chain, they find a reason to endure.

It seems as though in life we must be chained to something, anchored in a path that directs us one way or another.  It begs the question: To what do we asked to be chained?

Do we seek theKingdomofGodwhere we experience Jesus’ presence among the poor the vulnerable, the suffering in our weak economy? Or do the ways of the world chain us to the fears of self-preservation?

Will any of us choose Christ over the chains of the social world?

Let us spend this week reflecting on the chains that dominate our lives, focusing on which ones we need to lay down in order to bond to the hope of Christ for the mission of our world and endure in God’s love.

–Megan Sherrier, BSL

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About Brothers and Sisters of Love

The Mission of Brothers and Sisters of Love is to be a visible sign of Jesus’ Love, Peace, and Presence to the poor in gang-infested neighborhoods in Chicago and to be a bridge between gangs & the poor with the Church. This is done by: 1. Loving everyone 2. Trusting in God 3. Forgiving everyone everything 4. Never being afraid.
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