With You Always
"With You Always": Opening the Hands of God"
The Living Legacy of Thanksgiving
© Third Millennium,LLC
Deacon Keith A Fournier
"The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me" Jesus, Matthew 26:11
"And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." Jesus, Matthew 28:20
"In the end, there are two kinds of poor people: those who already know they are poor and those who don't know yet."
Well, the turkey and leftovers are put away and the all stomachs in the Fournier home are still full from the Feast!
And a wonderful Feast it was - this unique American cultural icon called Thanksgiving. It is a rather extraordinary tradition actually.
An entire nation, in the beauty of its rich diversity and pluralism, pauses to give thanks for all of its blessings and bounty.
I had a wonderful day.
Most of our children gathered around me and my bride of twenty six years, their beautiful mother, Laurine. We bowed our heads, prayed and feasted; not only on the food, but even more wonderfully, on the bountiful gift of family relationships, on love.
Laughter and stories of childhood years filled the air. Some of them I have never heard before. I was touched by -and appropriately proud of -each of our children and immensely grateful for the bounty that the Lord has given to us.
It was also a day of reflection.
The last three years have been very difficult. Laurine and I lost both of our fathers in the same year. We started all over again professionally... . But somehow, it has all borne the fruit of a deep seeded gratitude in both of us. We know just how truly wealthy we are, and yesterday, as we feasted on the love that alone can fill the hole in every human soul.
That morning, while children at home and returning home slept in, Laurine and I went to Mass. Not only were the scripture readings and the liturgy wonderful, but the priest abbreviated his insightful homily and invited members of the somewhat small worshipping community to give thanks.
One by one, the air was filled with stories of love and expressions of gratitude -even for events that had begun as tragedy but turned into triumph. How faith in the presence of a loving and living God always transforms pain, making it redemptive and helps us to see the glass of life as half- full.
As the day came to a close, I was all alone in my home office and prayer room. Just before retiring for the evening, I checked my E-Mail.
I had received this letter from Brenda McCormick, the foundress of group of mothers in Virginia Beach, Virginia, who have gathered together to incarnate the love of God in a work called "Mothers Incorporated:
For just over 1,000 needy families (2,000 -plus children) we won!
For 2,000 families (4,000-plus children) who didn't get help this Thanksgiving the City government of Va. Beach won.
Welcome to "The Politics of Poverty." We just have one question for our government officials: How do you sleep at night?
Onward to 10,000 New Toys for 6,000 Christmas Kids!
Jesus answered "Who is my neighbor?" with the story of The Good Samaritan.
Mother Teresa answered "Who is poor?"... "Before God, we are all poor."
I say the work of, by and for the poor is easy. The poor whom we call poor already know they are poor and are willing to receive. The poor who call themselves non-poor do not know they are poor are not willing to receive.
In the end, there are two kinds of poor people: those who already know they are poor and those who don't know yet.
Here is the crisis: If the latter don't discover this before they leave this planet, they are doomed to be poor forever. What can those of us who already know we are poor do for those who don't know yet? Love them.
For me, the hardest task is to love the arrogant poor. It's like trying to love a turtle which has retreated to it's shell. It's eyes and ears- the portals to its soul-have disappeared behind its armor.
Love and Thanks and Blessings.
Brenda and Mothers everywhere
417 16th St.
Va. Beach, VA 23451
Through the "Common Good Legal Defense Fund, my law partner, John Stepanovich and I have undertaken to help Brenda in her efforts to live the gospel that she so profoundly understands.
The city "fathers and mothers", the City of Virginia Beach, do not want "Mothers Incorporated" giving away turkeys, diapers, milk and other essentials from their home near the Ocean front. They are trying to shut her charitable outreach down, maintaining that such activities are violations of their "zoning ordinances."
It is an all too often familiar drill these days. Of course, the City maintains they want the poor cared for, but I guess just not in their own back yard.
In our efforts to defend "Mothers Incorporated" against the hostility of a contemporary "Caesar", I have once again been struck with the deep identification of Jesus Christ with the poor. In my own tradition as a Catholic Christian we speak of this as a "preferential option" or "preferential love" for the poor.
It is interesting that the same Jesus who promised to be with us always also told us that the poor would be with us always. Perhaps it is because they are one and the same.
Jesus is hidden in the face of the poor, at least for those who have the eyes to see.Jesus speaks through the poor, at least for those who have the ears to hear, and Jesus loves through the cries of the poor, at least for those who stop to embrace them as Brenda does.
That is of course the deeper meaning behind the sobering scene, recounting the last judgment, recorded in the twenty fifth Chapter of St. Matthews Gospel:
Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'And the king will say to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.'
Textually, this scene follows the famous "Parable of the Talents" wherein another kind of judgment is rendered. This one is a judgment in life between those who understand what they truly have and "invest" it by giving it away to others and those who grasp on to "their own" goods and bury them.
The point of this passage is equally as profound. It speaks to true matters of the heart and reveals for the entire world the economy of heavenly scale.
"To anyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away."
Brenda understands this mystery and has made it her own, as have countless men and women in every time. They are a gift for us all.
It is a privilege to not only help her but to learn from her lived example. She reminds me of a modern day Dorothy Day, a Catholic Christian woman who grasped this mystery as well, and still calls from the grave with her challenging message, leaving her testimony in a movement called the "Catholic Worker Movement"
Brenda, like Dorothy Day, has chosen to give herself away by living with the poor because she embraces her own poverty with joy and loves in both word and deed.
Another great woman of our age, Chiara Lubich, the foundress of the movement "Folkalare", expressed it so well:
"Yes, love makes us be. We exist because we love. If we don't love, and every time we don't love, we are not, we do not exist ("Even what he has will be taken away").
There's nothing left to do but to love, without holding back. Only in this way will God give himself to us and with him will come the fullness of his gifts.
Let us give concretely to those around us, knowing that by giving to them we are giving to God. Let's give always; let's give a smile, let's offer understanding, and forgiveness. Let's listen, let's share our knowledge, our availability; let's give our time, our talents, our ideas, our work; let's give our experience, our skills; let's share our goods with others so that we don't accumulate things and everything circulates.
Our giving opens the hands of God and he, in his providence, fills us with such an abundance that we can give again, and give more, and then receive again, and in this way we can meet the immense needs of many."
Brenda has opened her hands and her heart and has thus opened the hands of heaven.
At the Liturgy yesterday morning, I was reminded once again that the Greek word from which we Catholic Christians derive the word "Eucharist" is "Thanksgiving". How apropos.
In Brenda's E-Mail message, I was challenged by these words to make that message "flesh" in my daily life:
"In the end, there are two kinds of poor people: those who already know they are poor and those who don't know yet.
Here is the crisis: If the latter don't discover this before they leave this planet, they are doomed to be poor forever. What can those of us who already know we are poor do for those who don't know yet? Love them."
We are all called to be a people of thanksgiving by recognizing who we have with us in the poor.
Brenda does.Now it is our turn. That is how we can continue living the legacy of Thanksgiving.
To contact Brenda and find out more about "Mothers Incorporated", write:
Brenda McCormick firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Mr. Keith A Fournier, the founder and president of "Common Good", is a constitutional lawyer. Long active in political participation, Fournier was a founder of Catholic Alliance and served as its first President. He is a pro-life and pro-family lobbyist. He was the first Executive Director of the ACLJ (American Center for Law and Justice). He also served as an advisor to the presidential campaign of Steve Forbes. Fournier holds a Bachelors degree (B.A.) from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Philosophy and Theology, a Masters Degree (M.T.S.) in Sacred Theology from the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, a Juris Doctor (J.D.) from the University of Pittsburgh and an Honorary Doctor of Laws (L.L.D.) from St. Thomas University. Fournier is the author of seven books on issues concerning life, faith, evangelization, ecumenism, family, political participation, public policy and cultural issues. He is a features editor for Catholic Online and the Co-Director of "Your Catholic Voice"
http://www.commongoodonline.com VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Founder, President, 757 546-9580
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