The writer to the Hebrews writes:

“The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.  It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguishes our ancestors, set them above the crowd.(11:1-3).

During the past years of the pandemic, I have been asked many times about faith as I have been holding the hands of injured and dying. I have questioned and continue to question my belief in the midst of the desolation around me on the streets, the continued attacks on faith on social media, and everywhere one turns.

I have remembered these years is in spite of my degrees, and ordination, I am simply a Grocer’s Son. My dad owned a grocery store, as did his before him. And I remember him as a man of strong faith, with which he lived and died. A simple faith, a childlike faith, which he bequeathed to his son.

My dad’s love of Jesus gave him a heart of compassion. No one ever came to our store, or house and went away without food or clothes.

From him, I learned the words of Henri Nouwen in practice:

“Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, mourn with those who are lonely, and weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human.”

My dad taught me that nothing human is alien, as described by Fr. Henri Nouwen:

“Through compassion, it is possible to recognize that craving for love that people feel resides also in our own hearts., that the cruelty that the world knows all too well is also rooted in our own impulses. Through compassion, we also sense our hope for forgiveness in our friends’ eyes and our hatred in their bitter mouths. When they kill, we know that we could have done it; when they give life, we know that we can do the same. For a compassionate man or woman nothing human is alien; no joy and no sorrow, no way of living and no way of dying.”

This came from my dad’s strong faith, which he shared with me. I was raised in the church, remembering at four years old being taken to the communion rail to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion and told, “This Sacrament is for everyone, regardless of age, color, or belief.” I have never refused anyone Holy Communion.

I met the presence of the real Jesus of Nazareth and was called to ministry, through my dad’s faith.

His faith sustained him through lung cancer, and at his death, remembered telling others “My dad taught me by example to open my heart to love everyone, and meet them with an open heart, regardless of the pain. For each is a child of God.”

We all want to believe, to be loved, we join groups, spend hours on social media, and follow leaders when what we are seeking is to experience God’s love in all of the wholeness Christ gives.

Marianne Williams comments: All human behavior is love or is a call for love.”  Every aspect of our behavior is a desire for love.

My challenge to all of us is to look at our behavior and ask ourselves the question, “Aren’t we really looking for love?” And if we give care to one another daily, what would our world look like? If we call someone? If we invite someone to dinner? A young twenty-two-year-old college student told me, “I am going to be selfish until I make big money and then give it to the poor?” If we simply feed someone, or talk to a person, it will amount to a great flower of giving.

For me, the answer is in Jesus of Nazareth, the one who challenges me every day to feed the hungry, and care for each person I come in contact with. To open my heart, and be hurt. I am only a “Grocers Son”, a grocer show shared his love of people each and every day! Deo Gratias! Thanks be to God!


Fr. River Damien Sims, sfw, D.Min., D.S.T.

P.O. Box 642656

San Francisco, CA 94164


Jeffrey and Sallie Piel have  given a gift: “In honor of my grandmother Marie Mills, August 1891-August, 1969.

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