We often forget those who are barely struggling to survive or stay afloat. Those who are one paycheck away from losing all they have. When we see someone living on the streets we tend to overlook how they got there in the first place. It's just easier to judge them and drive on. But there are millions of American families living in poverty, doing what they can to make ends meet. Some are behind on the rent and utilities, living both on the mercy and in fear of their landlords. Jobs matter. People need to work. Not just to buy a new sweater from Gap but to stay warm off the streets.
Jesus, telling the scribe who wished to follow him, revealed he was homeless. Living on the mercy and grace of others to sustain and house him. I wonder if he ate with sinners and tax collectors not to redeem them but simply because they opened their door to him and took him in. They cared for him when the Pharasees rejected him. We must care for those who are barely holding on. In doing so we continue the work of Jesus and at the same time help keep the homeless population moving towards being eradicated.
Meditate: Sanctify Christ as Lord in you hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who ask you to give an account for the hope that is in you; yet with gentleness and reverence. (1 Peter 3:15)
Cesar Chavez (USA, 1927-1993)
Show me the suffering of the most miserable;
So I will know my people's plight.
Free me to pray for others;
For you are present in every person.
Help me to take responsibility for my own life;
So that I can be free at last.
Give me honesty and patience;
So that I can work with other workers.
Bring forth song and celebration;
So that the Spirit will be alive among us.
Let the Spirit flourish and grow;
So that we will never tire of the struggle.
Let us remember those who have died for justice;
For they have given us life.
Help us love even those who hate us;
So we can change the world.
The other day a teacher at school handed me a devotional that she had received and wanted to share it with the class. Since I was running late I shoved it into my bag without even looking at it. The piece of paper fell out of my bag this morning and I was pleasantly surprised to find this beautifully written poem. I thought I would share it with you.
Life: by Melody Wachsmuth
This world and the next
is full of mystery.
The richness of deep theological understanding confronts the poor, uneducated woman who, once healed, simply says "I will never forget what he did for me."
A thoughtful, well-balanced understanding of the Bible using every tool to understand the historical context confronts one who reads every word literally as if fallen from the mouth of God.
We think we know
Our hearts grow bold
With lusty enthusiasm
Of our knowledge:
We are satiated in our presumptions.
But how to answer the simple questions when we are too busy with the complex?
It is hard to know
if we see clearly
Do we have wisdom to know the difference?
The mystery of this world
is to see Jesus in the face of the poor and the sick
The dirty and the beggar.
And yet that picture dims.
What am I looking for in those faces?
But at the academic conferences
When I am overtaken by the fever of new knowledge
And bright bursts of insights explode in my being,
I feel I can see so clearly.
But therein lies the mystery-
What if the dim is actually clear
And the clear is actually dim?
Our own knowledge must grasp
That hand of the humble beggar
As if our life depended on it
Or it will lead is down a path
In complete blindness.
Meditation: Vindicate the weak and the fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute; Rescue the weak and the needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicket. (Psalm 82:3-4)
Pray for the homeless and for those who seek to bring justice for all God's beloved children who suffer.
When you do something, anything, towards one of God's beloved children do you see the cross of Calvery in your actions?
E.M. Bounds (USA, 1835-1913) once said, "All God's plans have the mark of the cross on them and all His plans have death to self in them."
I love this quote because it takes the randomness out our essence and being without robbing us of the mystery of life. Bounds wants to empower our actions by reminding us that God is in our lives, and the sacrifice He gave to us, that blots out our sin and iniquities, was giving for a particular purpose. I believe that purpose is to live life fully. To do so requires we give ourselves fully over to the Great Creator of all life, to immerse ourselves fully into God's plan. When we look at a cross, let us be reminded of the beam that points that runs between heaven and earth has a cross beam that runs between human being and human being here on Earth.
When we walk passes a stranger in need, think of how the cross has helped you.
When someone asks for a handout ask yourself "What impact did Jesus' sacrifice of self have on you and how has it helped you live a life free of worry, anxiety, and loneliness?" Then have that impact on someone else. Giving of self can be your time, money, talent, prayer, or simply a smile.
Everytime you perform a random act of kindness God's plan is enacted, the cross is witnessed, and a sacrifice of self is made.
Meditate: Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. (Psalm 51:10)
Pray for Thomas who has been missing from his usual off ramp spot. Pray that he who never asked for much more that a home for his family and a job for himself has found what he had prayed for in God's name.
(Excerpts from, and special thanks to Joe Colletti for his paper, “Examination of Consciousness in the Spirit of St. Ignatius Loyola.”)
How do we know we are doing the right thing? How do we know we are treating strangers with a particular kind of kindness that would reflect the kind of treatment we would give the Incarnate God? I was assigned this paper to read and found some enlightening points that came from St. Ignatius Loyola a few hundred years ago that might help us with a little checks and balances.
It’s called the Examination of Consciousness.
“An Examination of Consciousness is a spiritual practice that helps us reflect on God’s activity during our daily life. During this time we can ask God to help us examine ourselves.”
In our meditation we search for places where God has been present in our lives, or examine places where we have fallen short. In our meditative state we quiet our souls in order to “hear the voice of God within our own heart and to experience a growth of familiarity with God’s will”
“The examination of Consciousness evolves around two major activities: 1) discovering how God has been present throughout our day; and 2) discovering those areas in our lives that need further growth and healing.”
In this practice, within the context of the relationship between meditation and contemplation, we find what we are seeking as we seek answers for ending the evils of this world, such as poverty, greed, corruption, murder and homelessness.
Mediate: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love. Wash me thoroughly form my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51)
Pray for Jose, whose heart and business seek God’s blessing; may the wealth of God’s grace pour upon him so that his business will flourish.
Trying to end homelessness seems like an impossible ideal. As I contemplated this morning how I would begin such an insane endeavor I read this passage in the Bible:
"Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3
While this passage is taken from a prophesy regarding the restoration of Israel, I believe it holds truth for all creation to be restored back to its Creator.
It begins by calling out to God to ask for help and to find the answers. It is a step by step process. Like building a new home requires blueprints and materials and human labor, so to does taking people off the street and placing them into that very home. That is a great and mighty thing.
Meditate: I invite you in O Lord to meet me where I desire your love and peace.
Pray for the six participants whom I will be baptizing today, into the Body of Christ.
Read: Jeremiah 33
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"...how he went about doing good..."