Amos part 3

Amos 6: 1-7 part 3
Woe to the complacent and overconfident who sleep in comfortable beds, eat and drink well, and idly entertain yourselves while ignoring the collapse of the poor and middle class.
In part one I wrote about some of the problems the poor have with the rest of society. The second part I wrote about how people discover grace working with the poor, but that it is hard to sustain for the long haul.
Personally, I have felt called to work with street gangs and the poor. It began as a journey that had twists and turns in determining which forks in the road I should take. St. Ignatius says that in our prayer and discernment we look for the consolations and the desolations. Consolations are signs of the Spirit working and desolations are signs of going the wrong way. Amos warns us about the attitude of taking the easy way. Discernment means following our hearts in connection with the Gospel.
The role of the Church, I think, is not as an Ark to protect us, or as salvation from Sin. The Church has failed too many people just as the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Priests failed Israel at the time Jesus walked the earth.
The Role of the Church is to feed us and sustain us in our searching of the “Kingdom of God.” The “Kingdom of God” as I understand it is finding God’s action in the world. I have found it most profoundly in working with gang members and the poor. The Church sustains me with prayer, the scriptures, the Eucharist (Holy Communion), and generosity from its members. We get disappointed when we expect too much from the Church. Just look at how it handled the Priest abuse scandals.
Being part of a larger body like the Church is part one. The second part is our own relationship with God. I personally understand God as the Trinity- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I relate to each part of the Trinity in different ways and at different times. I am not going into each one now, but it is freeing to relate to God in different ways and from different angles.
I find it useful to develop a Spirituality. For me it is fourfold. The first step is to Love. The great commandment is to love God, others, and ourselves. All three are important. For how can we love God if we do not love our neighbor? The first letter of John says we can not. If God so loved us that he sent his only begotten Son, then we should love ourselves too. I have found grace in loving the poor, not the idea of the poor. It comes from getting to know people and accepting them as they are not as I want them to be.
The second part of my spirituality is to Trust in God. That means that I have confidence that God is in all things and situations. That by being faithful and loving others God shows me the way and I find God’s presence working in my life.
The third part of my spirituality is to forgive. I have found that people do not do what I want them to do, what they tell me they will do, or what they should have done. I do not live as a doormat or expect others to live in abusive situations. But it does mean that we are to accept people as they are and to forgive when they fall short of what they should be. So if a person is a liar, I do not believe everything they say, but I still treat them as persons and listen to them.
The fourth part is to not be afraid or to live in fear, even at dangerous times. The first Letter of John also says that God is Love, and that Love casts out Fear. Fear tells us that there is danger or that something is not right. Fear needs to be listened too, but it is not to control our lives. During the dozen or so times that I had bullets go past me I felt the fear within me, but by loving the shooters and the people of the neighborhood I was able to sustain myself in those situations and from that I experienced Grace, the Spirit of God, and the inbreaking of the “Kingdom of God”.
Thirty years after beginning by journey I am still going strong, even though I still feel my vulnerability.

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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