5th Sunday in Ordinary Time | February 9, 2020
I met J for the first time a few weeks ago.
He came to the sacristy before Church and wanted to talk. A young man who was down on his luck with a story to tell.
And I listened because that is what I’m supposed to do, right?
And when the inevitable ask came . . . I was ready: “Of course I’ll help. Here are a few dollars and my assurance of my continued prayers and support.”
I don’t know how much of his story I really paid attention to. I don’t know if I even believed him.
But I opened my wallet because I have frankly always prided myself on how I respond to the homeless in our midst.
I was doing what the first reading asked, was I not?
I was helping to feed the hungry, to shelter the homeless.
At least that is what I told myself.
But then J had the audacity to come back.
And suddenly all my hypocrisy and ego were put on display.
Because when he rang the doorbell of the rectory. I looked out my window and went, I don’t feel like dealing with this today.
And I tried to sneak out the backdoor to my car.
Only J was there.
And as I quickly made up an excuse about why I needed to run, keeping my wallet firmly shut. I watched his face fall.
He hadn’t asked for anything.
But I had given him an answer nonetheless.
No my brother, you are not one of my own.
I must admit, the readings for this weekend were a tough reminder for me of my failure that evening.
For I had built in all these exceptions to the rather simple commands I had been given.
I would feed the hungry when it fit into my schedule. When I got duly recognized for all of my generosity. When I could keep them at a distance. When I didn’t need to become emotionally involved.
But if I have learned anything, it is that when Christ invites each of us to be the light, he does not include a string of caveats or exceptions.
He does not say, “Be the light when it is convenient.”
Or, “Be the light for those that you like or enjoy their company.”
Or, “Be the light when you have time or resources.”
Or, “Be the light for those who deserve it or are worthy of the light.”
Or, “Be the light when you are ready. When you have the training or confidence or expertise.”
He says, “Be the light.”
He says, “Feed the hungry. Shelter the homeless. Clothe the naked.”
He says, “Do not turn your back on your own.”
My friends, this weekend is not necessarily a feel good weekend.
But a stern reminder of the cost of discipleship.
For the hungry. The homeless. The naked. The oppressed.
They all wait for us.
Right beside us. Right outside these doors.
The friend who hungers for acceptance. For someone to love them for who they are.
The classmate whose nakedness and shame are the favorite topic of gossip on our social media thread.
The brother who steals from us to fuel his addiction. Who hides under the weight of our stigma.
The neighbor who struggles to pay their bills. Wondering when the final shoe will drop.
The asylum seeker clutching his child in his arms staring at our walls and fences and barbed wire.
The homeless gentleman who holds his sign right outside the window of our car as we cruise by.
Feed them. Clothe them. House them. Shelter them.
Until all realize that they are our own.
May God be Praised.