July 23, 2016
"While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off." (Today's Gospel)
Two years ago I had my life somehow together, going to school, working full time, making it rain💸💰💸(Not really), when I came across this guy Jesus, who expressed his desire to make me happy and heal my heart. Thus I became a live-in volunteer at St. Anthony Shelter for Renewal in the Bronx. Once my year of service was over I have to admit my life was not back together as I had expected. This year has been interesting, I became miserable in a way because I wasn’t getting the whole picture of life in the light of God's mercy. Mercy is not weakness or a seasonal duty, or something you exercise temporarily and then seek to live an ordinary life, expecting to be a "better version of yourself". On the contrary, mercy is living a REAL version of yourself with all the challenges included in it. Mercy is neither a path full of everlasting springs, one must face a few winters sometimes in order to embrace God's warming arms of love.
Last month I decided to visit my beautiful St Anthony Shelter for Renewal for a few days, I wanted God's mercy in my life for a weekend and then go back to the ordinary things I desperately seek to bring back into my life to feel I am an ordinary young adult. My plan was to work all summer, but somehow God's plans were different, it's been a month, I'm still volunteering here and have found myself laughing more than usual many times, and praying the rosary on the rooftop at night with other crazy guys seeking for the same Mercy as me. God made me go through some misery so that I would freely seek for him again in the face of the poor and be reminded of who I am and who he is.
As this place is full of great memories I am starting to connect the dots of lessons I was not able to understand two years ago. At the shelter sometimes we deal with guys who do not want to follow the house rules. We have to be a little tough because we love them and we want the best for them. One day while check-in time, during the pat-down process I came across a pornographic business card one of our guests had in his wallet. Our rules are very clear when it comes to things that contradict our Catholic moral teachings, and guys agree to all of our rules when we take them in for six months. I took the "business card" and ripped it in little tiny pieces straight to the trash can. This man wanted to punch me so bad, I could see it in his face. However, he knew punching a volunteer would have brought more than one problem to his life, he just walked away. This man disliked me for the first four months and I was fine with it. The last two months he became good friends with me and admitted he was about to punch me, but now he was grateful I did what I did...he disliked me, but now he loves me. I never understood why this moment made such a huge impact in me even though it seemed very ordinary.
There is phrase that reads "Do not mistake my kindness for weakness". We do get it confused in our Christian lives many times, when we try to please others and be liked by everybody. But real love does not seek sympathy, it must seek out the greatest possible mercy in it so that nothing can get in the way of being loved. GOD DOES NOT WANT US TO JUST LIKE HIM, HE WANTS US TO LOVE HIM. . At the shelter I am learning this aspect of God, while assisting the friars in their mission each time I put the sympathy towards me in jeopardy when it comes to enforce the rules. I love the guys who live there, that I would rather have them "suffer" a bit for a few minutes, than having to say bye to them for small reasons I could have avoided with a correction at the right time. Blessed be God for all those times he denies us the things we want, in order to prevent us from getting lost again.
Many weeds grew around my life ever since I left St. Anthony a year ago, which made me miserable. There may be many weeds in our lives, but that should not prevent us from growing, or loving. God never wants to take anything from us and if he ever does is because he wants to give us life, and life in abundance. This abundance sometimes means not having it all together so that we would give up and cry out: MERCY! I GIVE UP! LET YOUR WILL BE DONE NOT MINE!
Maybe if I had it all together with the world, how far would I be from God now? I wonder sometimes. I don't know what your situation is, maybe worse than mine, I don't know what kind of weeds the enemy has put in your life and how hard you have tried to get rid of them, but I can only tell you that not even the enemy can move without God allowing it. If our Lord has allowed you to experience anything you wish you hadn't, is because of pure Mercy, he has a plan you may not be seeing yet.
The grass grows in the silence of the night, when the weeds sleep, and in the silence of the night we must remain praying so that we can outgrow those weeds.
Never stop praying, never stop growing, have patience, he will remove all weeds himself in due time.
St, Francis, pray for us.