Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Christ Meets the Brownstones

For the past week or so, I've been taking my hound--Finbar--and walking a couple of times a day along the Boston University Campus. We pass by buildings that house the various schools that make up Boston University.  There is the College of General Studies,  the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Education, and the list goes on.  Each of these schools or colleges represent a portion of the BU community. The young men and women who attend these colleges and schools are bound together by similar interests.  
On the street where the Catholic Center's Newman House is, there are dozens of other old brownstones that house students who have similar interests.  If you walk up my street--Bay State Road--you will see brownstones with signs that read, "Music House," "German House," "Spanish House," and so on.  Again, these houses represent groups of students who have some interest that binds them together. It is all quite impressive.

This past Sunday, St. Luke's Gospel spoke about two groups whose members had similar interests.  Luke referred to them as "crowds."  The first crowd came together because a grieving widow had lost her only son.  She was accompanying his body to its place of burial.  All around her were gathered people who presumably wanted to console her and to grieve with her.  What brought those people together was a very human reality.  

As that particular crowd was making its way along, another crowd encountered them.  This crowd was gathered around Christ as he approached the City of Nain.  As we know, Jesus raised that woman's son and restored him to her.  In so many of Jesus' miracles, somebody makes a request of Jesus.  But in this instance, no request was made.  Instead, Jesus was moved by the woman's sorrow.  

In so many ways, this Gospel is a model for Evangelization.  It is important for the Christian crowd not to be content with its own little world.  Instead, we are supposed to encounter every other crowd.  We are called to meet them in their particular areas of interest.  We are called to meet them in the College of Education and in the College of Communication.  We are called to meet the crowd at the Music House and at the Spanish House.  We are called to encounter every crowd.  And, we don't have to wait for them to beg us to tell them about Jesus.  We have to act like Christ who was moved with a sympathy for their particular interest, a sympathy for what brought them together.  The BU Catholic Center's Newman House is a place where we are gathered by the Lord.  But, it is not a fortress.  It is, in a sense, a staging ground.  From it, students are called to bring what they discover in Christ to every aspect of life and society.  

Every human being--no matter what crowd he is in--has needs, has burdens, and has problems that seem unsolvable.  No matter how wonderful the colleges they attend might be, each of those students is going to run up against a difficulty that seems insurmountable.  The account given by St. Luke about that young man who died is a good reminder to us that Christ is the answer to man's deepest problems.  You think you have problems?  Try being dead.  That's a very big problem.  But, Christ entered into the midst of that crowd and showed himself to be the solution to man's most profound problems.

I have a pulpit and I have the privilege of preaching the Word of God from that pulpit.  But, there are places that I will likely never go.  I will not be in laboratories and operating theaters, in political science seminars and  theater productions.  But, the lay members of Christ's faithful will be in those places.  Sunday's Gospel is a reminder to all of us that the Christian crowd is meant to encounter every other crowd and to bring to them the new life that only Christ can bring.

In his first book on Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict asks what did Christ bring to humanity that none of the other great spiritual leaders before him brought?  The answer: God.  Christ brought God. The Church is called to bring God to every crowd.  We bring something new to every problem.  We bring God.  In the Gospel this past Sunday, Jesus did not look disdainfully upon the other crowd that had gathered.  Instead, he looked with sympathy on their very human situation.  What brought them together was not a bad thing.  It was something good.  They were brought together to mourn and to console.  Similarly, Catholics shouldn't look upon today's other crowds with disdain or with indifference.  Instead, we ought to see in each of those crowds an urgent desire for new life.  We ought to look with sympathy and with affection on these contemporary crowds.  They gather together for good and noble reasons.  In bringing Christ to these crowds, we are not setting out to destroy them.  We are bringing what perfects them: God.

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