City of Angels

Los Angeles--an enigma, much like our lives. A city full of many paths, freeways of glamour, trafficked with the crushing burden of poverty. Tent villages in the shadow of luxurious villas and fancy, overpriced apartments. A city alluring to both those dying to be known and the unknown dying. The City of Angels is crowned with the halos of a thousand lights, yet haunted by an underworld of homelessness and gang violence.

Yet, the stark disparities of Los Angeles illuminate another, still greater paradox at the heart of the human condition: the deepest, most pure joy is birthed from aching pain. Those still breathing after dancing with despair and flirting with death are filled with a wondrous, encompassing joy.

I have witnessed this truth throughout the past few days in the subtlest, yet most profound of ways--through a smile. A shocking flash of white set against the contrast of a hardened, wrinkled face. Dusk fades into dawn. So much beauty in an unlikely place. The purity of love, exposed.

I can't help but compare this relationship between joy and suffering to the cross. From the suffering of Jesus came the final triumph of the Resurrection. Sleeping on the sidewalk, hugging material possessions, Jesus suffers. Holding a fallen Homie in hands tattooed with gang signs, He suffers. In the pangs of loneliness that penetrate deeper than any hunger, our Lord suffers. But through each genuine smile, no matter how fleeting, Jesus rises again. It is said that in order to save our lives, we must lose them (Matthew 10:39). My heart is lost in the sufferings and smiles of the poor of Los Angeles.

I am so blessed! Thanks for reading :)
Emily Prill (University of Dayton)

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