by Arturo Chavez, |
CEO Benedictine Resource Center
A couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from God. She was desperate.
There were three police cars at her tiny, westside home with a warrant to arrest her for welfare fraud. Her grandchildren watched as the only stable person in their lives was handcuffed, humiliated, and abruptly hauled away as if she were a dangerous felon. I told God I would do what I could.
I waited for hours until I could post bond, and at four in the morning they finally released her from jail. God and I had coffee on Frio Street and through her tears of embarrassment, she confessed her sin. She didn't report what she earned from cleaning offices because she was afraid that she would no longer get the ninety dollars in aid and the food stamps she needs to raise her three grandchildren. She certainly didn't want to steal from anyone, but the welfare assistance just isn't enough to make ends meet. She now has to pay back $3,000, a small fortune, to clear up the matter and avoid deportation.
You see, God is not a citizen of our country. As I held her hands, weathered by age and hard work, I could feel the tense desperation that was eating away at her. I prayed for peace.
Last week, I met God again. This time he prayed with me at a mass held at a mutual friend's house. He gets around on a wheel chair. My friend shared his painful story with me. It so happens that as God was escaping the poverty and violence of his homeland, he had a terrible accident. He leapt off the train he was hiding in to avoid being caught by the INS, but his feet got caught in the rails and were severed. He lay for hours bleeding before anyone found him.
My friend has been caring for God for almost a year now. God is depressed and very ashamed of being seen in his wheelchair. I prayed and wished I could do something. God smiled at me during the time for the sign of peace, as he shook my hand and said, " Paz esta contigo hermano."
Peace is with me? His blessing unsettles me still. It reminds me of another time he gave this blessing. I certainly wasn't there, but Luke records the event like this:
".he stood in their midst and said, 'Peace be with you.'Just like those first disciples, I struggle to make sense of suffering, to believe the impossible, to love even in the face of so much hatred. I reach out to grasp the gift of peace. However, it is an elusive gift that gives no easy answers. It is a peace that is not free of conflict and struggle. It is a gift that at times is more a burden, and yet, it is still a gift.
Through the mystery of the resurrection, God is alive and in our midst. We are not left alone to fend for ourselves. God's gift of presence in our world, however broken and disguised, gives us the courage and power to hope. This hope opens our eyes beyond what is obvious, and gives us vision. The gift of peace is the gift of being able to see how things really are and how they can be.
I see the risen Jesus constantly, disrupting my life with his gift of peace. Mostly, I look the other way. But, there are times when I just cannot resist his invitation to, "Touch me and see". There are times when I am at peace.
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