Friday, May 17, 2013
A priest, newly assigned to head the JOC (Jeunesse Ouvrière Chriétienne, Young Christian Workers) writes in a bulletin for priests that he went to a Maryknoll priest who held the position before him, Fr. Michael Bransfield, for advice in taking on his new work. The priest relates that Fr. Michael, who died in 1989, came from wealth but in his work in Korea he lived simply and always saw the world with the eyes of a worker.
The writer reminds us that living with workers and hearing what they have to say changes the way you see the world, and there were, in fact, many changes in Fr. Bransfield's life. If we are to know how truth and justice functions in the world, he believed we needed to see the world from the perspective of the marginalized and the suffering. He has left many words and pictures showing us the hardships that are endured daily by those having to live such a life.
When the writer went to Fr. Bransfield for advice on how best to interact with the workers in his charge, he said Fr. Bransfield took a few moments to think about what to say and then responded with two suggestions: speak little and listen long; secondly, work with them. The priest writer said he didn't always follow the recommendations, but they have registered with him and never left, and in time he came to realize they were the words of the Gospel.
He describes, in his article, a worker in his sixties, who lived a life of poverty, never married, and was generally not recognized by others. He became interested in the Church, began to study, and was baptized. One day he was seen walking back and forth in an alley by one of the Catholics, his face expressing great joy, which was not his usual manner. The woman asked what made him so happy. He had a meeting with a priest, he answered, and told him about his life. "You have done well, you have had much trouble and have overcome many difficulties," said the priest. This is what made him happy, he told the woman.
Those who have much and are respected by society often are the ones who monopolize the words of the mouth and what is eaten. The poor often do not have the same opportunities, having to be content to say little and eat little.
Jesus often went to the alienated of society to speak and eat with them, and to listen to what they had to say. We know that he opened the lips of many who couldn't talk. Those who were alienated and were overcome with a feeling of inferiority were liberated with the love that was shown.
The Mass, with its many different meanings, is also primarily a sign of that love which is shared by all. We daily share Jesus' words and the 'bread', as did the first Christians when they shared their experience of the faith and what they possessed. It was their answer to solving the problems of the marginalized and those who suffer.