In these difficult, polarized times we may find it fruitful to think of the moments that first lit the fires that burn passionately in our hearts. For many of us, these memories are of intense experiences of kinship with our neighbors, of solidarity with the poor and the marginalized, or of the sense of community born from working collectively for social justice.
But if we stick to only these moments and memories, we risk believing that our lives and the works to which we are called are simply a series of sprints.
In fact, however, we may find over time that the path of living justly takes the shape of a marathon, or perhaps better yet, of a long and arduous pilgrimage: we take our first steps not knowing well where we are going but in the confidence of following those that have already begun to show us the way. We encounter many faces along the journey, some who accompany us, others who may try to lead us astray. We hold onto the sense of needing to move forward even when we are unsure which way we are headed. We may feel loneliness and fatigue, but also strength in knowing that our ultimate destination is with the Lord.
For each of us this journey takes on a mysterious nature known in its entirety only by God, and as the Sunday scripture reminds us, it is known to Him from the moment we were shaped in the womb. This long pilgrimage towards justice is only completed when our lives on earth too are completed; and so it is that the work of realizing God’s justice on earth is slow work.
We will struggle with connecting with the sense of patience that slow work requires as the urgency of the cries of the world echo through our hearts and minds. But we would do well to remember that we are “prophets of a future not our own.” The slow work of justice requires us to leave room along the way for the surprise of seeing the unexpected shoots sprout from all the seeds already sewn before us. In this way, our pilgrimage will be made all the sweeter by the unexpected fruits left for us by those who came before, and our work can be that much more fruitful by planting seeds along the way for all those who have yet to come.
For as the scripture reminds us, all of our toiling is never in vain so long as we think not of ourselves, but in our just reward with the Lord, and so long as we also remember to think of our future generations as we echo St. John the Baptist’s words on the Solemnity of his Nativity: “Behold, one is coming after me.”
Daniel Salvador Alonso serves as the Social Action Director for the communities of Lorain County in the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio. As a native Clevelander, Danny graduated from Saint Ignatius High School (class of ‘08), where he first traveled to El Salvador to visit the sites of the Jesuit martyrs and their companions and the four churchwomen, before returning to complete his undergraduate degree in Sociocultural Anthropology from Columbia University. He has a strong passion for gardening, cycling, poetry, music, and working for social transformation. He is the proud uncle of 5 nieces and nephews, and the loving owner of two dogs.