The readings from the last couple of weeks bemoan a kind of forgetfulness that can fall upon us. There was the story of the man who reaped a harvest, but planned to store away his fortune. At the end of his life, he chose to amass wealth instead of sharing it. This Sunday, we read of servants who forget the responsibility they have, focusing instead on instant gratification and power.
Sometimes, I don’t feel that different from these ancient characters in the parables. I get tired of being on a human journey where the struggle never fully ceases. I want the perfect life that Instagram’s targeted ads promise me. There is a forgetfulness of God’s vision that I can fall into when I feel like I can curate a small vision of my own life.
Jesus encourages his disciples to believe that they will find deep, rich, meaningful life without all the normal trappings of success. He tells them not to be afraid, to “sell your belongings and give alms.”
How can I trust this message in a dark time as we negotiate the pressures of capitalism, mourn mass shootings and sweeping ICE raids, and navigate fear stoked by racism, xenophobia and white supremacy? Shouldn’t I cling to what I know?
I believe the people who live closest to the daily struggle of surviving can point the way forward.
When I lived in Manila, I built a friendship with a woman who lived by a creek that flooded every rainy season. She kept watch every night in case the water crept in on her sleeping family. The precarity of living in a flood zone forced her to live without many possessions. The situation formed active neighbors who helped each other in crisis. The community was far from perfect, but they were committed to engaging their struggle. One day, after hearing about a recent flood and her daily schedule of rising at 4am to work, I asked her how she did it all. She told me, “Every day I wake up and offer all of who I am to God.” She then described this relationship of trust that buoyed her throughout the work of her day. As she spoke, I could feel her embodied faithfulness. She shared with me a generous, open posture that did not deny the harsh reality, but was also not paralyzed by fear.
What would happen if we took our cues from the people who have become resilient in the midst of life’s injustices? Would our friendships call forth the beautiful parts of ourselves that want to live expansively? Who might we become if we remember the greater freedom God promises and God’s big vision?
Grace Salceanu is the director of the Ignatian Spiritual Life Center & Children’s Faith Formation at St. Agnes Church in San Francisco. She previously co-directed Casa Bayanihan, the University of San Francisco’s study abroad program in the Philippines rooted in accompaniment, academics, community, and spirituality.