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January 24 - Forging Identity

3rd Sunday of Ordinary Time (C)

What does it mean to be an American? I think most of us who live in America know this through looking at our history as a country. We learn it through stories from others, through books we read, and we even see our history in film. It is the people of this country who shaped who we are today. 

I think the same could be said for just about every country. The same could certainly be said about El Salvador. I have been privileged to visit our Diocesan mission in El Salvador a few times over the last several years. I've grown very fond of my trips because the people of El Salvador are equally missionaries to me as I am to them. The Diocese has been serving the people of El Salvador for the past 52 years. In those years our missionaries have lived to tell many stories of their experience, and if you were to talk to one of them, undoubtedly the recent civil war will come up in conversation. This is because the country has been greatly effected by this war of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. A group of people sought more wealth and more power at the expense of the less fortunate. If anyone got in their way on their quest for wealth and power, they were hurt in the process. Archbishop Oscar Romero was a hero of the people during this time. He knew that speaking out against these atrocities would certainly mean his martyrdom, but he spoke out anyway. He would go on to say that they can take away his life, but he would live on through the Salvadorean people. And so he did.

This weekend our readings highlight not only destruction, but more so, they highlight what faith can do. As Ezra stands over the ruins of the once great city of Jerusalem, he becomes distraught. He's heard and read stories of the once great city now turned to rubble. He sees the anguish of his fellow Israelites as they act as a mirror for his own torment. Looking around the ruins, he locates a scroll of the Torah (the first 5 books of Scripture). He opens the scroll and begins to read from it. These are stories of Israel's history. Stories of difficult times and stories of prosperous times. Ultimately, the people realize that these are stories of faith. Their grief turns to joy an exultation as they imagine and dream about their future.

So often I think we can let our current situation dictate where we are headed. We can let our culture dictate who we are to become. But St. Paul reminds us that we are united by Christ and we are indeed brothers and sisters in His Body. When one is hurt, we all hurt. When one is sorrowful, we all weep with them. But when one rejoices, we all rejoice. We are united much more than we realize. We share a common union (communion) to help build the world into a better place.

Being missionaries is a great way to visualize the great expanse of God's great love in the Body of Christ. It provides us with a greater sense of what truly matters in life. We begin to see from the lens of faith, hope, and love as we see it unravel right before our eyes. The truth is that we do not always need to go to third world countries to be missionaries because we are called to do this at home. We are to be the Body of Christ here in America and abroad.

My prayer is that we do not let the world dictate who we ought to be; rather, we let the God who made us help us to become who He made us to be.