Stop Running Away from Your Neighbor

             Last week, as you may remember, I mentioned to you that our good friend, Bess Wilson, who I really loved and appreciated, fell asleep in the Lord about 10 days ago.  Her funeral will be here on Tuesday at 10:30.  Over the past several years, I’ve been visiting her occasionally in the nursing home, filling her in on the news of the community and checking up on her.  I’m really going to miss that but she was one of those people that I’ll never forget – ever.  She was an incredible woman in many ways.  Over these past five or six years, she wasn’t always able to communicate well but sometimes – as recently as three weeks ago – she was completely lucid and Penny and I had a wonderful visit with her.

             I say all this because about a year ago, she really opened my eyes to something in a way that seemed humorous at the time.  When I entered the room, she had a difficult time speaking, wanting to sleep instead, but I persisted in trying to talk with her.  Eventually, she said to me, “What are you doing here?”  I said, “I’m here to visit you, Bess.”

“But what are you actually doing?” she said, almost angrily.

“I’m not doing anything,” I said, “I’m just here to visit you.”

At that point, she was angry and she said, “Well, why don’t you do something.”

             Initially, I laughed because I knew that our sweet Bess would never have said that to me but, after thinking about it, she was right.  Why don’t I do something?  Why don’t we do something?  Why do we think that just being is good enough?

I think about these things often and, especially when I hear a gospel like today’s gospel, the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Notice that it was specifically a priest that Jesus called out for avoiding the injured man.  I suppose many of you could relate to that too, because you know the commandments of Christ are not given only to the clergy or even especially to the clergy, but to everyone.  The same rules that apply to me apply to all of you.

So, instead of running the other way, what can we do?  What should we do?  If we look at other parishes around the country, we see that they run schools like Lowell and New York.  We see a regional pre-school in Needham, and nursing homes in Worcester and upstate New York.  We know about Hellenic College and Holy Cross but we see now a pan-Orthodox college in Southern California – St. Katherine’s College – with courses in Orthodox theology and other areas of study.  More locally, we see parishes in Boston, Fitchburg, Worcester, and East Longmeadow with soup kitchens, helping to feed the hungry and to answer the call of Christ to make a difference in people’s lives in a very tangible way.

So, I’m announcing to you that I’ll be speaking to the parish council about how we here at St. George can make that happen for the needy in our area.  I’m going to want you, all of you, to join me, to contribute physically and financially with the preparation of food.  We’ll do our research and we’ll find out how, where, when, and what we need to do this.  We already know why.  It’s simply the right thing to do.  It is why God has blessed us as He has and I believe it will make an enormous impact on the lives of those who participate in it.  If you’ve been to the Rescue Mission, the Ronald McDonald House, the Philoxenia House or the Homeless Shelter, you know the benefits of helping others.  You know that the poor and the needy do much more for us than we do for them.

One person put it this way:  The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.  We plant seeds of God’s Word simply because they bring life.  We plant seeds of hope because everyone deserves to dream.  We plant seeds of faith because in that mature faith we find a message of compassion, concern, and love for our brothers and sisters.  It doesn’t matter if the life, the hope and the faith are given back to you.  Our role, I believe, is to walk over to those injured people and say, “Let me clean and bind up your wound.  Let me give you a drink and give you the care you need.”  Our role isn’t to just visit.  Our role is to do something and to really make a difference.  I hope you’ll join me.

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