Posted on Jul 30, 2020

2 August 2020

My mother’s only sibling, my aunt, was emotionally and mentally challenged all of her life.

She was institutionalized when I was in grade school

and then under the great reforms of Richard Nixon was “mainstreamed.”

Mainstreaming for her has meant a dingy studio apartment in a bad section of the city in which she lived.

The most notable thing about her was that she has a deep,

perjuring anger/hostility towards all the members of her family.

She would not let us get close to her, help her in any way.          

                        My mother had to sneak food to her through other people in her building.

Several years ago she shocked us all by showing up at the wake of her aunt.

She walked in, straight up to the casket, knelt down, made the sign of the cross and then got up and came straight over to me. “Will you take me home now?” she said.

On the drive to her apartment she said:

“You’re a priest now.  I saw your picture in the paper when you got ordained.  When we get to my apartment will you pray for me?” I said I would.

When we got there she turned on a little light and then knelt down in the middle of a room.

It felt so weird. When I was through she stood up and said:

“Thank you.  You’re the only one who understands–about God I mean.”

I didn’t have a clue.

And I would have written it off except for the tone of her voice–

this wasn’t the talk of a “crazy” woman but a kind of truth.

Even when she had nothing else–not even her sanity she had God.

In her world that has probably made all the difference.

That day I caught a glimpse of what Paul must be talking about when he says to the Romans:  

“Nothing, nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ.”

Ironically, you and I are supposed to be the ones “who understand about God.”

Who understand what Paul is talking about.

But sometimes we are so thick-headed and so skeptical.

We bury our faith under a blanket of realism

and don’t live at all, like this was true–like it makes a difference.

In the gospel the disciples are realists: “We can’t possibly feed all these people.”

Oh really?

Sometimes, far too often, we ignore the most powerful and mysterious gift you and I have been

given–the love of God in Christ.

It has, made all the difference for my aunt and people like her who face tremendous and terrifying challenges.

What can it do for us who have so many advantages?