This past summer, with over one hundred of you present, we celebrated 40 years of serving women and children experiencing homelessness in San Jose.
On Casa de Clara’s anniversary year, we think of the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the desert – those long 40 years of journeying toward the promised land, 40 years of letting go of the ways of Empire they learned in Egypt, 40 years of learning the ways of freedom. We read in Exodus that it was 40 years of being fed on manna and trusting in God’s providence, and also of grumbling about how they should never have set off on this reckless journey to begin with.
We are familiar with this back-and-forth: the grumbling then trusting, trusting then grumbling. At times the challenges of homelessness in this valley of wealth, or of peacemaking in a country so accustomed to war seem insurmountable, and we grumble. And yet, on the whole, I hope we trust more than we grumble, or at least trust despite our grumbling.
Miriam and Moses, who led their people out of Empire, were given a vision of the promised land but were not allowed to enter it. Deuteronomy 1 tells us it was because they didn’t trust God enough. Perhaps it was also because they were too steeped in the old ways of slavery, and ultimately not ready to fully embody the new life of freedom to which the Israelites were invited.
What about us? Sometimes I wonder if we are too caught up in caring for those wounded by the forces of Empire and oppression to create something truly new. Do we need a new generation of people who’s imaginations are not bounded by racism, sexism, capitalism, and militarism to begin something fresh?
We are a pilgrim people, forever on our way. The truth is, we will never “arrive” and our efforts will always fall short. Even those Israelites who did enter the promised land soon reverted to the old ways they saw in Egypt, and had to be constantly reminded by the prophets to care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, and the immigrant, because “you, too, were once immigrants in the land of Egypt.”
And yet, the journey is all we have, and it is not insignificant. On the inside spread of this newsletter, you will see what we have been up to, at this stage of our journey. It is imperfect, it still bears the imprint of Egypt, but perhaps it comes closer to a life of freedom than when we first began. We invite you to support us as you are able, by sending us a check in the return envelope, or donating online at www.sjcw.org.
And please, pray for us. Pray that we might trust God with our whole lives, and thus enter the promised land; pray that our imaginations be set free from the bonds of Empire, and thus enable us to follow God’s Spirit in creating something new.
Fumi, on behalf of the San Jose Catholic Worker community