Earlier this evening while waiting to board a plane to Colorado, I was reminded of an incident which occurred in April of 2008 while we were making plans for a weekend retreat. There were 12 of us making a three day silent retreat, (Friday through Sunday), at the beautiful St. Benedict's Abbey in Still River, Massachusetts, when suddenly all plans came to a screeching halt. The evening before our scheduled retreat, the airline bringing our four retreat directors out from Omaha had ceased all operations and grounded all planes until further notice. It was discovered that a major safety check had gone uncompleted on several of their planes and therefore the entire fleet was grounded until all safety checks had been done and redone. Aaaaagggghhhhhhhh!!!!
We were devastated. All of us were sooooooooo looking forward to this silent time to be away with the Lord. The retreat directors were really looking forward to making this trip out to New England and having some quiet time to bask in the silence themselves. The Abbey priests and brothers had set that time aside just for our group and didn't allow anyone else to book that weekend so we'd have the entire guest house to ourselves, never mind the meal planning and everything else they had put in place to accommodate us. It was incredibly disappointing.
The 12 of us decided to at least meet for dinner that Friday at the Abbey, so we could discuss the next steps and console each other in our dismay. This was when the Lord opened the door for a solid teaching that we shared over dinner:
We were only a small group of 30 or so who were impacted by this, (retreat attendees, directors, and then the priests and brothers at the Abbey), not including all of our families, etc., and the people who made other plans because we were going to be away for that weekend. But what about every other family member, friend, coworker, or other, who was also waiting for someone on those planes ? All in all, it would not be an exaggeration to say that 10's of thousands of people were affected by an entire fleet of planes being grounded!
Because of the disobedience of just a few people at one airline, who didn't do what should have been done, a HUGE number of people paid the price in a thousand different ways. What the Lord wanted us to understand was how this parallels to our spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood in the Body of Christ.
You have seen how one small stone thrown into a huge lake of quiet water can cause a ripple effect that goes on until it reaches the other shore ? This is how my acts of charity effect humanity. My good works, my love of neighbor, my sacrifice for others does exactly that - it causes a ripple effect throughout ALL of humanity. So does my sin. Every time I choose to be selfish and make a decision that favors my wants above all others, or choose my way in opposition to what I know God is asking of me, ALL of humanity pays this price.
How do we know this? There are multiple places in scripture where the Apostles tell us this - that we are all connected in the One Body. Jesus also reminds us over and over again that whatever we do 'to the least of our brothers' we do to Him.
Much of the first book of Corinthians in Chapter 12 is about this mystery: 1 Cor 12:12, "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ." The teaching doesn't stop there. The next line gets even better, "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit." Paul's letter to the Colossians, Chapter 1, verse 24, also strongly accents how his suffering is being poured out for the Body of Christ, "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body, which is the church, in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions." Then the book of Ephesians puts it quite succinctly, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling".
And so I leave you with a story that Fr. Paul from the Salesian community shared with us back in the late 90's one evening. We had gathered with a group of St. Francis de Sales devotees, which Jaymie Stuart Wolfe faithfully pulled together at her home on a monthly basis for great discussions in the teachings of St. Francis.
Fr. Paul said he was sitting in front of his television one evening watching a movie and a commercial came on that was soliciting donations for a charity which helped the suffering and destitute children in third world countries. As these scenes of starving children and their parents in anguish flashed across the screen, Fr. Paul said it struck him like a brick, "I did that. My sin is a part of what is causing humanity to suffer in this way. I have a direct part in the suffering of these children and their families because of my decision to do my will and not the will of my Father in Heaven!"
Loving Father, please help us to remember that every act of love brings new joy and new hope to each child of God - and that every act of disobedience or pride brings greater sorrow and suffering to our brothers and sisters in Christ. May Your will be done through us and in us, on earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.