Sunday, January 25, 2009

brothers and sisters in Christ

The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house. Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him. A crowd seated around him told him,“Your mother and your brothers and your sisters are outside asking for you.”But he said to them in reply,“Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking around at those seated in the circle he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35)

"Jesus looked at the motley crew of disciples and called them His "mother and brothers." He accepted them as family. He said His brother, sister, and mother is whoever does God's will (Mk 3:35). Although at this point the apostles were not totally doing God's will, Jesus accepted them as family to change them into disciples who would do God's will." - excerpt from One Bread, One Body daily Bible meditations

Would you let your brother or sister dig through trash cans for food? Would you stand by idly and watch them scrounge around in haste, trying all the while to remain inconspicuous? Since we are "all made in the image and likeness of God" (Gen. 1:26-27), then to watch someone dig in the garbage for food is to watch Christ dig in the garbage. Is this how we treat Christ in the poor?

Last week while I was in Washington DC for the annual March for Life, I saw some people digging through the trash for food. The sight was heart-wrenching. I am thankful that God allowed me to help.

Rising early on Friday morning, I sat out in the hallway of my hotel (because of roommates sleeping) to read the Bible and pray that Jesus would open my eyes to see what He wanted me to see that day. I knew when I was planning my trip to DC that God had more plans for me than to just make my voice heard for the unborn - though doing that and seeing the witness of many is powerful and much needed.

Each task we set out to holds more than the mission at hand...
During our parish mission, Catholic Lay Evangelist, John Schweisthal said to us that each trip to the store, library or wherever is an opportunity evangelize the love of Christ. Buying groceries or picking up books is only secondary to sharing the love of Christ. So, I knew that being in the "big city" would provide many opportunities if I allowed myself to look through Christ's eyes.

God doesn't take long to ask... My friends and I set out for Union Station to get subway passes. If you haven't been to Union Station, it's the hub for all the trains - like a giant airport with shops and restaurants. We decided to scope out the scene and get our passes first, then eat breakfast in one of the restaurants there.

As we rode down the escalator to buy our passes, I noticed a ruffled young man riding up the other side. He got to the top, then rode down and walked toward the exit to scrounge through the trash. Finding a half empty juice bottle, he picked it up and drank it. I knew at that moment that I was going to ask him to breakfast. I couldn't bear to watch my hungry brother wander aimlessly looking for people's leftovers.

As God would have it, he came back our way and got on the up escalator right in front of us.
I tapped his shoulder and asked if I could buy him breakfast. From under his hat, he peered at me and said yes. I introduced myself and asked his name. William.

We chatted some and then went into the Au Bon Pain. I told William he could pick out anything he wanted. He said just coffee, but I said are you sure? I knew he was uncomfortable. You can get a sandwich and soup or whatever you like, I said. He liked the sound of that. So I motioned to the area of the soup but he said, no, you come with me. I asked if it was because the staff would follow him or kick him out and he mumbled yes. Welcome to the world of the homeless.

There were many eyes following us around the restaurant. I paid for his breakfast but he didn't want to stick around and eat with us. About 15 minutes later, he walked back by and turned ever so slightly to look back at me. I waved and smiled and caught a guarded grin from him.

A few minutes later, another man stuck his head in the restaurant and started asking around for breakfast at McDonald's. Everyone was just ignoring him like he was a pesky fly buzzing around! I know we have to be careful helping the poor, but that doesn't mean pretending they don't exist. So, this man - Charles - was also treated to breakfast.

I don't say this to draw attention to myself but to draw attention to how many opportunities God gives us to help if we abandon ourselves to Him. I'm sure I could go back to Union Station tomorrow and they would be there wandering around trying to stay warm or panhandle for a few bucks for food or booze. I didn't change their life situation, but they changed me.

May the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ reign in your hearts, your minds and on your lips today and always.