I recently travelled to a small town located in the middle of Illinois for a funeral. When I arrived, as I normally do, I drove east of town to visit the local Catholic Cemetery – actually to visit with the ghosts of hundreds of relatives and friends. My great grandparents, my grandparents and my parents are all buried there, along with a sister, a nephew, and aunts and uncles, and cousins everywhere. Everywhere I would walk, I would see a name and make a connection – a memory. On top of all of the relatives, were neighbors, friends, and very few strangers.What I remember is people – people imperfect and limited and all very human. But I also remember love, sorrow, pain, challenges, compassion, and a willingness to help others in times of need. Some lived a very short time, others well into old age. Related or not, they were connected to one another and to life.
The Cemetery is surrounded by corn and soybean fields – and it is quiet. I stand in amaze meant when I consider the millions of seeds that were planted – small little seeds that seem insignificant. As these seeds receive the gifts of water, nitrogen, oxygen, sunshine and other important elements, they begin to grow and take shape. As they mature and produce the harvest, they become life giving in countless and various ways.
When I arrived recently, there was a truck and a worker downloading a crypt to receive the casket with the body of a family friend and a good teacher, coach and parent and grandparent. He two was surrounded by family and friends. One thing that I normally notice when I visit this ground, is the silence. I can walk around and say my hellos and remember the stories of the past. In remembering, they all come alive and remind me once again of times gone by.
The fields are filled with silence, but brimming with life. The thousands of acres of corn and soybeans are the earth come alive. I am reminded of the Gospel story of the seed scattered around and realize that all of us together are that seed, called to become life and givers of life. We are called to see the sacred in all things; to recognize that we are surrounded and filled with the spirit come alive. In this, we are called to recognize that we have been blessed to receive so many gifts from others. They were gift to one another and countless others – unaware so often of the gifts that were exchanged each day. They fed one another, healed one another, cared for one another and challenged one another. They received the gift of life each day in countless ways; and in turn were gift to others.
This is the message of the Gospel. Jesus asked his disciples to be come gift to others; to bring life to the world. So often, we get all caught up in a world that is wounded and torn apart, filled with the smell of death. Somewhere along the way, we lost the message of the gospel and so often have used it as a club, judging and condemning others. The message calls us to become food for the hungry; not to push people away from the table, but to welcome them. Pope Francis reminds us that we are called to become a field hospital, healing the sick and the wounded, recognizing that we are called to com-union with one another. We are called to recognize that when we receive the sacraments, we become the sacraments; we become the face and the hands of the Christ in the world. We are all gifted and blessed every day of our lives. How do we look around and see others who are floundering in fear and rejection and welcome them to our table of life? In this we become gift to them, and just as importantly, they become life giving gift to us.
Pope Francis recently said:
“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. IThen we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds … and you have to start from the ground up.” (Pope Francis.