Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Embracing poverty and humilty

"For the Christian there is no stranger. Whoever is near us and needing us must be "our neighbor"; it does not matter whether he is related to us or not, whether we like him or not, whether he is morally worthy of our help or not.
The love of Christ knows no limits. It never ends; it does not shrink from ugliness and filth. He came for sinners, not for the just. And if the love of Christ is in us we shall do as He did and seek the lost sheep."
- Edith Stein, Selected Writings of Edith Stein

An amazing thing happens when we strip ourselves of our possessions, admit our sinfulness and acknowledge our need for a Savior - Jesus Christ. We can no longer see ourselves as more important than anyone else. We become simple children of God - equals.

This world of excess materialism keeps us at bay from one another because it tries to get us to look through a "have or have-not" lens when we are called to look through the lens of Christ.
If you have more than me, does that make you better, smarter or more motivated?
If she takes the bus and I drive a Honda, does that mean I'm more favored?

"The commercial advertisements that fuel television deliver one common message: Do not be satisfied with what you have - only more "stuff" can make you happy." -excerpt from When Did I See You Hungry?
Of course, it doesn't take long to look around and see that more stuff does NOT make us happy, only more in debt and still longing for the only ONE Who can fill our emptiness. When we take more than we need, we are, in essence, stealing from those who do not have enough.
Yes, I can be as guilty as the next person, but it's the questions/prayers we ask ourselves and our God when we think we need something that can make the difference in how we live.

Lord, give bread to the hungry and hunger for You to those who have bread.

There is but one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:6)
That means that if you call God - Father, then the young man taking his daily "bath" in the gas station bathroom is our brother. The woman in the Philippines living in a shack alongside the railroad tracks is our sister.

The pregnant mother who's husband has just left her with three kids and is now seeking an abortion because she feels lost and alone is our sister. She needs our compassion and help. She needs to hear the truth - that abortion is murder and will only make her feel worse - physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The inward parts of the leper in Brazil were formed in her mother's womb in the same way as mine. The man suffering from addiction on the streets of Grand Rapids was made in secret by the same God who made you and me.

Our God, who knows the number of hairs on my head also knows the number of hairs on the mother's head in Kenya who is suffering from AIDS. Does she deserve to have her hand held and her brow wiped any less than you or I do?

Jesus came for the children living on garbage heaps in India, just as He did for our children.
Justice requires that these children have enough food to eat and a place free from danger to sleep, but justice often times goes by the wayside when it means sacrifice on our part.

I recently met a man - unemployed and living in the mission - who drove his car after drinking too much twelve years ago. He was caught and arrested.
In my youth, I also drove a car after drinking too much - too many times. I was not caught. This man still has a police record that will follow him around for the rest of his life. Even though he has done his time, he will not be forgiven by many in this world. He has been forgiven by Christ, but how about by us? Isn't that what our faith commands us to do?

It is only through our eyes which Christ's compassion can look upon the earth. Are we looking through His lens or is that too inconvenient?

Are we denying ourselves daily and taking up our cross or have we passed it off to others in the world who already have too many crosses to bear and no one to help ease their burden?

We brush the homeless from our minds because their misery might disturb our otherwise beautiful day. How beautiful can our day be when we refuse to acknowledge and take action for our brothers and sisters who are hurting?

Yes, it's true - The scope of poverty and hunger can be overwhelming to us. That's no reason to stop us from starting.
Years ago, my friend, Jim Flickinger, said, "I can't do everything, but I will do everything I can." This is a beautiful motto because each one of us is called to embrace each other in our daily walk. We have all been called upon to give.

Jesus embraced simplicity, poverty and humility. What do we embrace?

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