I feel privileged to have been a part of two spiritual events that took place in the great outdoors last month.
But it wasn’t your typical outdoor locale. Both events were held in the St. Michael Church parking lot on the corner of North Clinton and Clifford avenues in the heart of "La Avenida." This area of Rochester is more commonly known as "the crescent," and the plague of violence and drugs is what many people associate with those neighborhoods.
So, the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini parishioners and community members who attended a weeklong mission at the church as well as the opening Mass for the annual Festival del Barrio were making a statement of caring by their very presence. But during the Aug. 31 festival Mass, Deacon Agenol RodrÌguez challenged parishioners to not just be present but to "walk the walk" of Christianity. He asked them to not judge their brothers and sisters in Christ who are plagued by addiction or other vices. He urged every parishioner to welcome them all the to banquet, as Jesus encouraged his own disciples to do. In Luke 14:13-14, Jesus said: "When you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed."
And I truly felt this blessing as I sat with those parishioners under the stars on those beautiful summer nights. The dichotomy of the sounds of sidewalk chatter and hip hop music blaring at full volume from a passing car alongside the prayers and songs of the Mass and the mission was not lost on me. But there was no question that this is exactly where Jesus wants us to be: living out witness of our faith for all those around us to see and maybe to even follow.
Let us all heed that call to open our arms and offer an oasis of love through the work of Jesus Christ.