The Word is Alive Today - Austin Hillman
Hello, my name is Austin Hillman. I am a junior studying Biochemistry at the University of Dayton. Over the past couple of days, I have had the privilege of spending time and sharing experiences with students from the three Marianist universities across the United States. Together, in the crazy city of Los Angeles, we continue to answer a call that was astutely captured today by a comment from a member of the LA Catholic Worker named Matt: "I hope you can challenge yourselves while you're here. I hope you keep pushing yourselves further and further outside your comfort zone." Prompted by Joseph, a fellow UD student, Matt drew our attention to a certain fire that seemed to be already burning within each of us who have gathered in LA this week. In a couple more sentences, Matt managed to acknowledge our desire to walk alongside one another, discovering alternative fuel sources (sorry, I think I've taken too many science classes) to create a fire that we can no longer contain.
Today's journey, jam-packed with spiritual growth and social justice goodness, began on the streets of Skid Row and eventually led us through the madness of LA traffic to a reflection in the Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral. We ended the day at an outdoor concert, witnessing the fruits of a Marianist brother's labor at Assumption School. While each of these encounters left its imprint on me, I want to focus on a single quote that I believe encompasses not only the purpose of this immersion trip but also the purpose of our lives as Christians. "The Word is alive today."
Before I get too deep into some philosophical or theological rambling, let me attempt to paint a picture of the context in which I heard this quote. After being assigned to work with a man named Ted in the Hippie Kitchen, a soup kitchen run by the LA Catholic Worker on Skid Row, I found myself running around the kitchen doing a job referred to as "Food Flow." For those who do not know me, the sporadic, squirrelly nature of this job personifies the inner-workings of my brain. Somehow, I was dropped into an environment in which I was able to thrive. As soon as I stepped into the Hippie Kitchen, God's Hand seemed to guide the work I was about to do as well as the conversations I was about to have.
Between stirring, restocking, wiping, and sweeping, I stumbled into a conversation with Megan, another member of the Catholic Worker community. Unexpectedly, we began discussing a recent concern of mine, gentrification. Shortly after I left this conversation, I was offered an opportunity to be on the receiving end of this kitchen of overflowing mercy, leading me to a shared meal and another unexpected interaction with a man, eating outside in the garden.
Although I sat with this newfound friend for over an hour, I can vividly recall the last ten minutes of our conversation. Seemingly out of the blue, my friend turned to me and said, "Well, don't you see it? The Word is alive today." While he gave me several examples of the truth in this statement from his life, I could not see its application to my life until I began reflecting on his words later in the day. Had I not just experienced the Word of God through my perfectly fitting job responsibilities, my impactful conversation with Megan, and again in the words of a friend?
Throughout the day, I continued to reflect on these words, remembering the wisdom shared with us last night by Marianist Fr. Jim Heft. "Catholics tend to be theists – they miss the significance of Jesus." As a Christian, the Word, Jesus, is undeniably the most accurate and tangible example for us to follow. Often, I find myself doing good works, but how often can I say that it is the work of Jesus alive in me?
Challenged to step out of my comfort zone, I eagerly continue this journey alongside newfound friends with a rekindled desire to proclaim that "the Word is alive today."
Senior, University of Dayton