Cups of Coffee

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time | June 28, 2020

See today’s readings here. Video recordings of the Sunday evening Mass, where Fr. Brian regularly preaches, are available on Facebook at Delaware Koinonia. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons

Two cups of coffee.

Two cups of coffee that told two very different stories.  I experienced both of these stories during the 48 hours that I chose to immerse myself in the life of the homeless in Washington DC my senior year of college.

The first story was told to me by Bo.  He was the one who helped guide me to a tent encampment in suburban Maryland where I would spend the night.

As we sat shivering from the cold around a trashcan fire made of wooden flats stolen from the local grocery store, he shared about his experience at a McDonald’s earlier that morning.

Bo had managed to find a coffee cup in a trash can outside and was taking it in to claim a “free refill”

The manager noticed Bo and trailed him outside, after Bo had filled his cup with coffee.  

He approached Bo and demanded that he pay for the cup of coffee.

Bo couldn’t.

So the manager seized the cup of coffee and dumped it on the ground right in front of him.

As Bo recounted the story, he got a sad look in his eyes as he asked the question that was also troubling me.

Why would he waste a perfectly good cup of coffee?

The second story occurred the following night, as I sat against the wall of a Krispy Kreme, once again trying to stay warm.

Suddenly a woman walked out of the store, still wearing her apron from work.

She bent down and gently handed me a cup of coffee.

Stay warm, she whispered, and then walked back into work.

I remember just sitting in stunned silence, letting the warmth seep into my fingers, breathing in the smell, and then letting the warm liquid fill my aching stomach.

Two cups of coffee.  Two radically different experiences.

One cup that stripped a man of his dignity.

Another cup that restored it.

And in these two cups of coffee, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’ discussion of a simple cup of water.

Such a simple gesture, offering a cup of water to someone who thirsts.

And yet, it is this simple gesture that is promised a sure reward.

My friends, our lives are made of simple, small gestures.  Simple cups of water and coffee.

And yet, contained with these cups is the potential to give life or strip it away.

I’ve been following the social media posts that have been popping up over the last few days, as people of color have shared their experiences in both the private and public schools in Wilmington, at the University of Delaware, in higher education as a whole, in the world of comics.

And I have been heartbroken over the cups of coffee that have been dumped in front of them.

The microaggressions.  The racial slurs.  The stereotypes and assumptions.

And as I kept reading, I realized that I had work to do.  The work that Christ invites each of us to this day.  Which is to ask.

What cups of coffee have I flung in front of someone else?

When have I stayed silent when someone said something offensive but I didn’t want to rock the boat?

When did I notice that someone was struggling but walked right by because I’ve got a lot going on?

When did I take for granted the privilege that allows me not to care about an issue because it doesn’t directly affect me or the ones I love?  When have I looked the other way when the institutions that I am a part of have failed . . . my school, my work, my country, my Church.

When did I share that post even though I knew it was divisive?  

But just as importantly, what cups of coffee can I extend into desperate hands this day?

Who needs a word of encouragement that I can offer?  Who needs my shoulder to lay their weary head on and cry.

Who needs an ear that will listen without judgment or defensiveness?

What ignorance can I work to dispel in my own life?  What can I read, watch, download that builds up the kingdom instead of tears it down?

What gifts can I offer to lift up the neighbor whose needs I see all around me?

Just simple cups of coffee.

And yet, in our hands, these cups can change the world.  Let’s not waste a drop, my friends.  

May God be Praised.

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