From the Rev. Chuck Jones
After the 9:15 eucharist last week, a number of parishioners assembled “goodie bags” full of snacks, socks, kids toys, hygiene supplies, hand and foot warmers and treats for dogs. The bags had been decorated with drawings, stickers and words of support by the creative hands of our Cathedral cherubs and choristers. This project is the brainchild of the Rev’d Chloe Chavez, Diocesan Missioner to the Displaced and Homeless, and she does it every month – this month with the support and cooperation of the Cathedral. On Wednesday, M. Chloe and I delivered the bags to the Albuquerque Police Department downtown substation and met with Sgt Pete Silva and the staff there who serve the downtown community.
Personally, I believe that police officers are people who, like us, do their work because it’s more than just a job. They don’t simply walk in and punch a time clock each day. The officers I’ve had the pleasure to get to know while working at the Cathedral these past four years, are men and women who understand that indeed they have specific duties and responsibilities, but in actuality, the reason why they carry out those duties in the manner and style they do, is because they achieve a greater sense of purpose and meaning in service to the community. It’s not just what they do, it’s who they are. I imagine that without that sense of vocation, one might not last long as a police officer, given the things they encounter and must endure. Being a police officer is their calling, their vocation.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, the Right Reverend Rowan Williams, once said this about vocation: “Vocation is, you could say, what’s left when all the games have stopped. It’s that elusive residue that we are here to discover, and to help one another discover.”
In this week’s gospel we heard the famous passage from Matthew in which Jesus names us as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”. Notice here that these aren’t just lovely images. Jesus doesn’t say, “you’re like salt and you’re like the light”. No. He names us as the salt and as the light. It’s what we are baptized into and it’s who we are as God’s chosen people. We must ask ourselves what that means and what in the world does it have to do with the goodie bags?
St Paul asked, “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within?” It’s that spirit, endowed in us by God, that is our call and our vocation to be the body of Christ in the world.
While M. Chavez and I were at the substation, the staff showed us photos of a man who had knocked on their door asking for help. This gentleman had his 3 and 5-year-old sons with him. They were cold and had spent the night on the streets to escape a domestic violence situation. The first photo showed the two boys with frightened and painful looks on their faces. Then the officers gave them some goodie bags they’d received from M. Chloe the previous month, and this time the boys had smiles on their faces and their father was holding tightly onto them. One of the APD staff members said, “This is why we do this work”.
There is no way to know what effect will come about because the cherubs so beautifully decorated those bags and all of you helped assemble them. When Jesus named us as the salt and the light, he was saying that we have a function to perform because we now compose the Kingdom of God on earth. And it’s not simply about doing ‘something nice’. We do it because we are the salt that flavors goodness and we are the light that shines into darkness. And this is how we reflect God back into the world. I like to say that when we are acting in response to the Spirit there is no act too great or too small because it’s not the act in and of itself, it’s the ripple effect into the world and about being the agents who usher great and wonderful things of God’s kingdom into the world.