In the first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, the writer praises God who cares for all and governs with leniency and forgiveness. In a world where so many feel lonely, excluded or unloved our readings today assure us of God’s unconditional love for us, all of us, each and every one of us. Can’t we all use a little more of that? A little more of God’s flowing and unconditional love. I, too, experience times when I question, “Am I enough? Am I loveable? Does God REALLY love ME? Even with my imperfections and in the moments when I’m unkind?” As I sat down to write this reflection, I felt the doubts creep in about my abilities to write this reflection. Am I good enough to do this? Will my words live up to the reflections of the many other incredible women who have preached before me? When I feel these doubts emerging, I ground myself in God and I pray for God’s Grace to carrying me through. It’s not easy to be vulnerable and it’s not always easy to feel God’s personal love me as an imperfect being but I remind myself, God cares for all and governs with leniency and forgiveness. We are not created to be perfect but to be loving, kind and just.
Recently, I came across an article in the May 2023 edition of America Magazine, titled, “How faith communities can respond to the teen mental health crisis” and as a campus minister at a Catholic university, this article caught my attention. These past few years have been tumultuous and hard on all of us but most especially on young adults and this article underscored the crisis of loneliness in our society. It cites, a CDC study from 2021 which found that “60% of young women said they experienced ‘persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness’ and nearly a quarter of them said they had a suicide plan”. These numbers are high across many communities, and this is staggering to try to comprehend. Cue the Black-Eyed Peas song, “Where is the Love.” Where is the love, indeed. Have we forgotten to care for one another as God cares of us all? However, we can turn this tide of loneliness and hopelessness.
Pope Francis has words of wisdom for us, he says, “the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful.” This article goes on to break open these words from Pope Francis by stating, we need to meet “troubled teens where they are…so they know there are adults in their lives whom they can trust to have their best interests at heart, adults who are not trying to supply easy answers but are willing to truly listen to their questions, doubts and pain. It means believing that helping teens care for their mental health is a work of mercy and a cooperation with God’s grace already at work in their lives, even when they may be far from the church and not yet ready to engage with it.” We need to be agents of love and mercy in our families and communities. Is there someone in your family, your neighborhood or workspace whom you could show some unexpected kindness, patience or generosity? Who might be suffering in silence, and would we know if we don’t ask and truly listen? Who are the people excluded from our circles of power, leadership or decision making?
In a society where social media and celebrity status sets unattainable expectations for all of us, but especially young adults, today’s scripture readings help ground us in God.
In our Gospel, Jesus tells us a parable about the man who sowed good seed in his field. With this story, Jesus is acknowledging the realities of our world and of our humanness. There is beauty, goodness and love, the good seed which God has sown, and there is also terrible violence, division and unkindness, seed which God has not sown. In these difficult times, how do we recognize the wheat from the weeds? Like farmers sewing a field, we must cultivate in ourselves a spirit of gentleness, kindness and forgiveness so that we have a bountiful harvest of these gifts to share with others. It can be difficult to glean the wheat from the weeds, especially in the early stages, but the more we cultivate these gifts in our daily lives, in our prayer, and in our relationships with each other, the more freely we can be people of the Gospel.
As a campus minister, I strive to live into Pope Francis’ call to be merciful, to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. In these difficult times, we need each other, we belong to each other and with God’s grace we can build a more loving, just and inclusive world. Jesus’ parables describe the Kingdom of God as not just for the hereafter, but the kingdom of God is also here among us. “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” The parables give us unflagging hope and a tenacious endurance in co-creating with the God and with one another, the Kingdom of God here on earth. We do not measure our success on the great things we have accomplished but on how much we loved, how we put that love into action and become sowers of justice, peace, and kindness.
Erin McDonald, CSJ
Erin McDonald, CSJ
Sr Erin is a member of the Congregation of Sisters of St Joseph, and she lives in Detroit, MI. The charism and spirituality of the Sisters of St Joseph is rooted in John’s Gospel, which calls us to “love God and Neighbor without distinction.” Sr Erin currently serves as the University Minister for Service and Social Justice at the University of Detroit Mercy and she is the co-host of the new podcast, Beyond the Habit, with Sr Colleen Gibson, SSJ. Prior to her ministry with young adults, Sr Erin, spent several years working with refugees and asylum seekers in the US and abroad, including two years as a humanitarian aid worker with the Jesuit Refugee Services in Rwanda. Sr Erin grew up on Cape Cod, MA, where her family still resides. She moved to Wheeling, WV for college and graduate studies then entered the community of Sisters of St Joseph in Wheeling.
Sr Erin has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Wheeling Jesuit University, a master’s degree in social work from West Virginia University and a master’s degree in practical theology from Loyola University New Orleans.