When I was a newly ordained pastor, I heard a speech by a federal judge. The judge said that he kept in contact with every person he sentenced to prison. His rationale was simple: he didn’t want his only impact on an individual to be the act of denying his or her freedom. Though as a pastor I visited hospitals almost daily, I had never been inside a jail. Within a few weeks of hearing that judge’s challenge, I made my first visit to the county jail.
Knit together: Jacqueline Novogratz tells the story of a favorite sweater that she wore for years. When she was 12 she finally donated the sweater to Goodwill. Then, 12 years later, she was jogging in Rwanda and saw a small boy wearing a sweater. She ran up to him and took a look at the collar: her name was on it! For Novogratz, the experience confirmed the interconnectedness of the human family (Atlantic Monthly, October).
Marriage does not exist only for companionship or procreation or complementarity. It has a cruciform shape, like other ascetical practices, and is a transformative experience for the two individuals. In marriage, God intends not only to alleviate human loneliness but to effect human salvation.
Jesus called the young ruler to a new kind of material life, a life given to serving the poor with the “materials” of tears, blood and sweat. Clearly, this life is not marked by the kinds of happiness used to sell goods. But we do honor Jesus’ call in our culture when we honor volunteers and all those who serve others.