So the last will be first, and the first will be last. Matt 20:16
I was touched by our Rector's homily this Sunday and the phrase that might have echoed in our response to the parable, a phrase that she kept repeating, "It isn't fair". "It isn't fair." No - life isn't fair but one of our responsibilities as followers of Christ is to reach out to those who are disadvantaged and make their lives, their suffering, their dying, less painful and difficult. To not make it necessarily fair for them but that they are not alone in their struggle. That, of course, is the responsibility of Outreach.
This morning I was watching an episode on the TED network that seemed so relevant to Sunday's Gospel and Shirley's reflection. The TED presentation was by Joan Halifax. Halifax is a Zen Buddhist roshi, anthropologist, ecologist, civil rights activist, hospice caregiver, and the author of several books on Buddhism and spirituality. As a socially engaged Buddhist, Halifax has done extensive work with the dying through her Project on Being with Dying (which she founded). She is on the board of directors of the Mind and Life Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated in exploring the relationship of science and Buddhism.
And while she is a Buddhist, I felt that what she said was so important for all of us. Here is a link to her presentation, part of a long weekend for empowering women that was held in Washington, DC last year. The title of her talk was "Compassion and the true meaning of Empathy". As we all pursue our outreach efforts at St. Martin's, her words address the struggle that we all have with maintaining our empathy and staying committed in whatever work we undertake here. She says that we cannot be distracted by outcome. We cannot get caught up in the fairness or unfairness of it all or the notions of responsibility or irresponsibility. And worrying about outcome will just make the work more complicated. We just have to do the work because we are called to.