It’s the end of the grading season for Fall Semester, and I’m reading through the last assignments for my sociology course. It’s some of my favorite reading of the year: students choose three of the research findings from the course that they found interesting or surprising, present them clearly and accurately, and then tell me what grabbed their interest or surprised them. It’s a wonderful insight into their thinking – I’m often surprised at the things that surprise them.
The course presents a lot of information about many social problems; students are often surprised at the amount of misery and suffering in the world. Some are worried or angry – how will their generation clean up the mess? Some are energized – ready to get to work.
I’m puzzled by the small number of students who combine a deep faith in God with a passive stance to social problems. One student wrote, “I’m thankful to know that the Lord will provide for all our needs and we don’t need to panic or be frightened.” I’m with her when it comes to panic. But – both theologically and scripturally – most of God’s plans seem to include alert and caring humans who marshal the brains and energy God gave them to be part of the solution.
My old friend, Joel Mabus, wrote a song, The Preacher and the Flood. A preacher turns down all sorts of people who come to help him out of a predicament – says he’s trusting in the Lord. He can’t recognize God’s intervention in the human help that’s offered to him.
Although I appreciate teaching in a faith-based college, I’m saddened that this strong faith in God’s provision isn’t accompanied by a sense of vocation – of God’s call on one’s life to be part of the solution. I’m reminded of St. Theresa of Avila‘s awareness:
Christ has no body now on earth but yours,
no hands but yours,
no feet but yours,
yours are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion
is to look out to the earth,
yours are the feet by which He is to go about doing good
and yours are the hands by which He is to bless us now.
It’s my prayer that her strong love for Christ will draw her to where he is found: wherever there are people who are in any kind of need.