I was walking alone in the “Back of the Yards” looking for the family of a woman who was killed alongside her five your old son. I had met with the boy’s father the day of the murders, but now I needed to go back and see about the funeral.
Upon arriving at the victims’ home, I was informed that I should see the mother/grandmother who lived, in Englewood, a few blocks away on a street I had never been. While walking, I thought about Mark’s Gospel and how the Apostles resisted Jesus‘ requests even though they had many successes. On crossing into Englewood I could feel hostility in people who did not know me as I was walking to the home of people I had never met.
In chapter 6 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus sends his disciples out two by two to heal, preach, and evangelize. Afterwards the disciples came back energized and happy in all that they had accomplished. Jesus takes them away to be by themselves and process all that had happened. Unfortunately, crowds of people followed them intruding on their personal time with Jesus. Jesus took pity on the crowd and asked the disciples to feed the people. The disciples were not happy and resisted, so Jesus fed the crowd with the loaves and fish. He then sent the disciples ahead of him to perform a task, but again they resisted, their hardness of heart caused Jesus to change his plans.
Having walked the streets for over 26 years I know why Jesus sent his disciples two by two. It happens to be the easiest most effective way. No matter whom I walk with the dynamic of relating to people on the streets is most effective in groups of two. This day I could sense why Jesus’ disciples would harden their hearts at his command and thought of other things I could be doing.
Approaching the house I saw a family member standing at the gate to the backyard. I crossed the street and as I approached him, he walked into the backyard closing the gate on me. I turned around and rang the front doorbell. The mother/grandmother invited me inside. Thirty minutes later I was praying with the family including the surviving son and greeting everyone throughout the house and yard. As I left, a family member walked down the block with me thanking me for coming and I noticed the hostility in the neighborhood was gone.
As I continued my walking I thought about how like the disciples, I was resisting the summons to go outside of where I am comfortable and to love people whom I do not know. Yet the grace that day was powerful and I felt the presence of God in the midst of their sorrow. It is the lesson to not let our hearts harden, but to continually reach out with love to others, especially those who are suffering.
Br. Jim Fogarty, BSL
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