You Already Have Something Special

In the first times that I was staying the village of Chontal in Ecuador, I was invited by a neighbor to come over for breakfast. We ate some good fresh food, with fresh orange juice. The rural life is not as clean and neat and convenient as urban Boston, so people in the poor rural areas can be very self-conscious, wondering what a foreigner like me might think.

When we were done having breakfast, while I was having my second glass of orange juice, the woman asked me, “So, are you going to give us a teaching here in Chontal? Like, men, don’t drink; women, don’t be lazy; kids, obey your parents?” I smiled at her and said, “Well, when I’m glad to accept your invitation and eat with you, that’s a teaching. When I’m glad to accept a second glass of orange juice, that’s a teaching. When I enjoy playing with your kids and being with you all and joining in, that’s a teaching.” And then I looked at her with some excitement and a big smile, “I didn’t come here to bring you all something new. I came here because you already have something special.

And I want to see it come out!”

A year earlier, I had been in another place in Ecuador. Living on the periphery of the pueblo there was an elderly man, Don Angel. He had no family to look after him, and he was living alone and couldn’t take care of himself. The Franciscan sisters who I know managed to get him a small, wooden and bamboo mini-house, like a shack, in another neighborhood with other folks with little means. The neighbors helped him out until eventually neither Don Angel nor his neighbors could take care of him. The sisters made contact with a congregation of sisters in Quito who run a senior care facility for just such seniors who have nothing left and no one to care for them. Seniors arrive as they are, and the sisters take care of everything from there, from clothing, food, and all the other necessities in their nursing home. They take care of them until they die. So, finally one day, I remember we helped Don Angel load a few simple belongings into the sisters’ car, and we all said our goodbyes as they went off to Quito.

A few months later, Pope Francis came to Ecuador. He decided to visit a few local places in Quito, and one of them turned out to be the very nursing home. I had tears of joy when I watched on TV as Pope Francis, while greeting a line of seniors in their seats and wheelchairs, got to shake the hand of an animated and excited Don Angel, all cleaned up in pressed white clothes.

When Jesus sends out the 72 to go and evangelize, they are not bringing teachings of what people should know and do. That’s not the mission. It’s not to draw people into your church or convince of your beliefs or your social cause. It’s not to give people something new because they are missing something or because society has problems. It’s to recognize that they already have something special. And want to see it come out.

Jesus’ gift to each of us isn’t a new belief system or a social belonging, a new truth to save us from our sins, or a new social justice cause to save the downtrodden and condemn injustice. In short, Jesus doesn’t come to you because there’s something wrong with you, or wrong with the world. He comes to you because he loves you. He sees through all the emotional and psychological wounds received from life experiences and the caked on guilt from your own failed and missed opportunities and bad decisions – through everything you might think is wrong – to all the good that you are, down to your very core. That’s the good news. God is with you.

You already have something special.

And He wants to see it come out.

“Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’” (Lk 10:8-9)


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