Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Everyday Grace: On a mission from God
by Mary Cronk Farrell
(From the May 23, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)
Tom Rinehart’s resume reads like the corporal works of mercy. He volunteered, helping the underpriviledged in the Bronx. He worked with the homeless in Portland, Ore., in a group home for mentally ill folks and on an organic farming cooperative in Mexico. The Spokane native is now busy organizing citizens in Rhode Island to resolve a lack of affordable housing and after-school activities for children.
What caught my attention was Rinehart’s stint as a human rights observer in Chiapas, Mexico in 1997. In the southern most region of Mexico, bordering Guatemala, Chiapas is a mountainous jungle rich with oil. The government and corporations have made millions extracting natural resources from Chiapas, but native peoples there have been ousted from their land and live in abject poverty.
Rinehart became one of a string of Americans and Europeans placed in villages in the region as impartial observers.
“We were a presence for people who felt unsafe in their homes because of their own army. They felt their government was trying to exterminate them,” says Rinehart.
Rinehart saw unarmed villagers intimidated by army patrols, but he saw no attacks. Sixteen people were massacred in a nearby village, but it has not been determined who killed them.
Families who agreed with the politics of the army receive handouts of food, electrical service, and plumbing. Those who didn’t, lived in mud and straw huts, with one outhouse for more than 100 families. They lived hand to mouth, and in almost constant fear for their lives. Yet, Rinehart says, they inspired him.
“They’re teaching themselves, helping themselves, not waiting around from someone to help them. They’re finding a new way to operate while preserving what’s good about their traditions.”
Rinehart inspires me. Not one to stay safe at home, he’s on a mission and making a difference in the world. He seems to be a living answer to the popular question: What would Jesus do?
I sometimes forget I’m on a mission, too. Not one that will make headlines, but because of my baptism, I share Christ’s mission in the world.
It sounds exciting to go off and work in a foreign land, but when I heard God’s call it said distinctly: “Love your husband. Be patient with your children.”
“But I did that yesterday,” I want to answer.
The call to holiness in marriage and family is not easy. Thankfully, we’re not on this mission alone.
The Biblical notion of mission differs from the common idea of charging forth to accomplish some challenging goal. Rather, it’s a matter of relationship between the sender and the one sent.
Our mission to be Christ in the world refers not so much to our going out and doing Christ’s work, but rather to our relationship with him, our way of making him present. Our works of mercy are not separate or tacked on, but should flow from Christ dwelling within us.
Since I’m a ‘do-er’ prone to getting caught up in ‘doing the soup kitchen,’ or ‘doing the nursing home,’ it’s been good for me to sit still and reflect on this idea. These good deeds are important, but they may be easier at times than focusing on the work that needs to be done at home in my own family.
Mike and I recently attended an overnight conference for married couples. I signed us up mainly because friends of ours from across the state were attending and it seemed like a good way to reconnect with them. We didn’t need help with our marriage.
Let’s just say the conference was an unexpected blessing.
We were reminded that our marriage is our number one way of being Christ in the world. Though our mission may have different facets which take us to the workplace, neighborhood, parish or charitable projects, our primary energies need to be directed toward our primary relationships. That is where we have committed to making Christ present.
If we’re going to accept this mission, substituting for Christ, we may have a little homework to do. I can’t help asking myself, “How well do I know Jesus? How could I know him better?”
Taking time from my busy day to study Scripture, or to sit quietly in prayer doesn’t sound exciting. Asking forgiveness of my husband, figuring out what to cook for dinner for the umpteenth time, and keeping hold of my temper when my kids are whiny seem nothing like the adventures I imagine Tom Rinehart had in Mexico.
But when I think about it, I know I’m right where I’m meant to be. And while I may feel like a poor substitute for Christ, I take courage in my faith that he is with me.
(Farrell is a freelance and children’s writer living in Spokane, Wash. with Mike and their three children. To contact her, click here.)
Inland Register archives
© The Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved