My friend, parishioner, and neighbor four doors down the street, Carlos Oramas, texted me Monday evening, September 18, at 8:17 PM: “You have power.” We had been talking to each other during the past week, wondering when power would be restored, hoping it would be soon. After 10 days with no electricity in our rectory, I shared the good news with our seminarian Anthony Tran: “We have power.” Then I remembered what someone told me at church over the weekend: “Father, we lost our electricity; we never lost our power.” Real power for living does not depend on electrical current but on the relationship that we have with God in Christ and in the power of the Spirit.
Amazingly, coincidentally, (God-incidentally) our scriptures this month prepared us for our encounter with Hurricane Irma. Scriptures of September 3 told us we had to take up our cross and follow the Lord (Matthew 16:24); we had no idea the crosses that were coming to us! On September 10, St. Paul told us; “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). How many acts of love and sharing did we see over the past two weeks. Friends, family, neighbors and strangers helped each other. Anthony and I enjoyed the hospitality of Isabel and Noel Castillo when we were told to evacuate from our rectory. At Mass in their home on Sunday, we prayed for our parish and all affected by the hurricane. Father Kish told how someone asked if he needed a shutter for his condo. Then he said someone, an unknown stranger, put it up for him. Jesus in the scriptures on September 17 reminded us that we need to forgive each other” (Matthew 18:35); if you had to deal with family and friends in close quarters for more than a week without electricity and air conditioning, you know how much forgiveness is needed! Then the parable of Jesus this Sunday, September 24, Matthew 20:1-16, reminds us not to count the cost or to compare ourselves with others, but simply to throw ourselves into the work of discipleship. We have much to do in rebuilding and strengthening each other.
And in all of this we are blessed. Everyone I have talked to says how much worse it could have been. As we give thanks, we will help others. So many people have needs in Texas, in our own state and in the Islands. Bishop Jason of Barbados told me that Dominica was leveled by Hurricane Maria. We know that Barbuda has been evacuated because of Irma. Puerto Rico, as of this writing on Wednesday,is receiving an incredible beating from María. We have not seen such destruction in recent memory. We will have a special collection this weekend for the victims of hurricanes.
Electricity is one thing. Power for living is another. We and our brothers and sisters in the Islands will face challenges, but we and they face them with the power that comes from the Lord. Electricity is important. But our real power for living comes from beyond us in Christ and in his Spirit.