Summer heat has struck with an intensity beyond conceivable and the orderliness of the world seems to unravel even further with the starkness of shootings, the ravages of war, and the scouring reality of the Jan. 6 riots. And yet, every life story is wrapped in broad socail and historical contexts. Each unfolds in daily increments of time, sorted by ups and downs that generate a narrative of note to be shared. Cradled within those stories are patterns and pathways, messages and hope. So it matters, inestimably, which stories find resonance in being, which provide the pathway to action, and which motivate us to choose to make a difference in our lives and the lives of others. The truth is that the stories are not simply tracked in TikTok or wating for access on YouTube; they are all around us, mirrors waiting to provide reflections.

There is the young immigrant waiter chatting about his children and his longing for his home country, for the lifestyle and the interactions. There is a vision there, a seriousness about his decisions, an acceptance of his past and an openness to the future. His eyes glow describing his girls and his son, gently recounting conversations about his vision and their resistant responses, the children’s expression of identity. His tenderness reflects the Gospel reading, the depth of what it means to care about others and to realize the extent of that commitment.

There is the older fellow, a stroke survivor struggling still for fuller recovery. He has given hours to training as an emergency first responder, his chance to give back. His story, too, carries all the threads of a powerful narrative, but is accompanied by a modest humility that will never find its way to social media outlets. Such stories are everywhere: the dentist who sacrifices scarce free time for emergencies; the contempative who spends hours listening to the narratives of others; the retiree who seeks out old friends and creates opportunities for new memories. Each is invested in a foundational element of human life: building meaningful relationships. Each has found the practice of caring, of acting for others, is more of gift than obligation; each is embracing the paths that are unfilding and daring to do what the Gospel suggests: putting others first, growing personally and sustaining an abiding openness to learning. In fact, that is what the Gospel suggests.

As the disciples ask to learn to pray, Jesus offers the Lord’s Prayer. For generations, the rhythm of those words provided sustenance and was the bedrock for personal relationships with God. Sometimes, the words themselves can be the object of speech and never find translation into action. The very structure of the New Testament story challenges that; it relies on examples to make the point that actions really matter and responding to the needs of another is esential. All around us, that happens every day; sometimes we have the luxury of being the observer while other times we revel as givers and dare empathy in being receivers. The Lord’s Prayer is the reminder that there is something More waiting to accompany each od us on the magical mystery tour of being human.

There is a fullness to humanity that is not dulled by tchnology or social media, that continually finds new ways to connect and weave the fabric of relationships. Even the intimidating plethora of today’s can be stilled by those moments of simplicity and presence that linger for even a moment in love. Super charged with the hope that represents, fears can find realism and practical responses. Daring to believe means hearing the stories, seeing them, reflecting on the meaning, learning and changing, Ours are lives nestled within circumstances often beyond personal control. Even Jesus coped with the realities of Imperial Rome and still he lived. And so we live among these issues in messy realities, realizing the grace of stories is the actually the reality of presence to another and the chance to grow and change.

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