Sunday, Jan 29, 2017
in Ordinary Time
Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Once a week, I help out at an after-school center in my community. The long-standing program, which provides supervision and enrichment activities for disadvantaged children, is a place of pride for the community because it fills an important need for many struggling families and has become a valuable resource in improving the prospects for their children.
Local news periodically shows smiling kids from the center participating in special events such as planting a community garden or taking swimming lessons at the YMCA.
But behind the feel-good images is a highly challenging environment in which staff members try to mentor some 200 children, most of whom have academic, social or psychological difficulties.
Constant behavior problems make it hard to accomplish much on any given day, so it's not uncommon for frustrated staffers or volunteers to give up after only a brief time. But a core group stays. They endure the frustration, work through obstacles and celebrate incremental successes. They stay because they are true believers in the center's mission.
Similarly, staying power is a challenge to the Christian faithful. Conflicts, wars, materialism, selfishness and an overarching secular culture threaten our ability to follow the ways of Christ. How can we hold fast to our beliefs against overwhelming opposition?
Zephaniah's prophecy in today's Scriptures provides the assurance we seek that Jesus' mission will continue despite forces in this world that constantly conspire to bring it down. Speaking God's word, the prophet says, "I will leave as a remnant in your midst a people humble and lowly, who shall take refuge in the name of the Lord … they shall do no wrong and speak no lies."
God promises that a core of true believers always will carry on, committed and living the life to which he calls us.
In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus describes that life in the beatitudes, reiterating that the faithful will be rewarded by God's faithfulness.
It's our only hope in this world, but it's a great hope, and we can witness its truth in people such as the committed leaders at the after-school center. When I observe this small group patiently enduring because of their compassion and selflessness, I have to believe that they actually are a part of that remnant maintaining God's goodness here and now.
This column is offered in cooperation with The North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.