The Main Thing

He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And do not keep striving for what you are to eat and what you are to drink, and do not keep worrying. For it is the nations of the world that strive after all these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, strive for his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well."
Luke 12:22 24, 29 31 NRSV

It was early in the Vietnam War and an American platoon was hunkered down in some rice paddies in the heat of a firefight with the Viet Cong. Suddenly a line of six monks started walking along the elevated berms that separated the paddies. Perfectly calm and poised, the monks walked directly toward the line of fire.
“They didn’t look to the right or the left. They walked straight through,” recalled one of the soldiers. “It was really strange, because nobody shot at ’em. And after they walked over the berm, suddenly all the fight was out of me. And it must have been that way for everybody, because everybody quit. We just stopped fighting.”
The witness of commitment to faith can be a powerful agent of change in people’s lives and sometimes it comes at great cost as it did for Catherine of Siena, whom we remember today. As a young girl, “she would close herself away in a darkened room, fast and sleep on boards. Eventually she was accepted as a Dominican postulant. She became a nurse, as Dominicans regularly did, caring for patients with leprosy and cancer whom other nurses disliked to treat. Catherine was a courageous worker in a time of severe plague; she visited prisoners condemned to death, arbitrated feuds and prepared sinners for confession. During the great schism of the papacy, with rival popes in Rome and Avignon, Catherine wrote tirelessly to princes, kings, and popes urging them to restore the unity of the Church. Exhausted and paralyzed, she died at the age of thirty-three.” (From Lesser Feasts and Fasts, 1997, Church Publishing Inc., New York)
Fortunately for us, the kind of witness made by those Vietnamese monks and St. Catherine mark an extreme that is not required of us. Yet their commitment does give us pause to think about the witness we do make. Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel, though our witness is rarely life threatening, it can still be difficult and bring separation and struggle.
Jesus calls us to be committed to Him above everything else, so listen for the way He is speaking to you. Out of the depth of our commitment, we respond to the calling of God for what is at stake in following Him is nothing less than our very lives.

The Rev. John R. Bentley, Jr.
Pastoral Associate