Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Please! Hear the cry of the poor!

These remain unusually busy days for me. Not a complaint, rather a simple explanation of why these posts have been infrequent of late.

Again yesterday the Staff of the soup kitchen where I volunteer whenever I can, called needing help.

[ Before I forget, for those who have been so supportive of and visit www.hopeforpriests.com – the site, as they say, is down for ‘maintenance and repairs’, a process delayed because the company which donates the webmaster bit is moving to new office space. I will keep you posted here about when the site will be back up again. Thanks for your patience and understanding. ]

When I first was assigned on a staffing rotation some 36 years ago to the soup kitchen, as a lay apostle,  long before I was ordained, virtually everyone who was hungry and homeless in those days was male, aged mid-forties and up, primarily addicted to alcohol.

Over the years the average age has dropped dramatically, the prime addiction is drugs.

Teenagers, women, children, the so-called working poor and pensioners have joined their ranks.

The hungry Christ, the homeless Christ – Christ the urban refugee.

While I love and love serving anyone who comes to the soup kitchen, and frankly am in awe of the dedicated consecrated lay people and the volunteers who serve there all the time, my heart aches especially for the women and children, the mothers with literally babes in arms and toddlers.

These women impress me with their humble, quiet dignity, all the while living in circumstances, within one of the richest countries on earth, that are akin to the worst of Third World conditions.

That there is not universal outrage, that we seem both sinfully unwilling and unable to overcome the crime of poverty is, to me, incomprehensible.

As much as I love encountering the Madonna and Child during contemplation with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament,  I am absolutely thrilled when I encounter them in the poor and am able to serve, for above all else the priest, as Jesus so formed us in the Upper Room, is servant.

To be, as a priest, on our knees in prayer is a joy, a necessity, and a duty, for the duty to pray for others is a prime one for priests.

To kneel before Christ in the poor and wash feet [ even if normally the ‘kneeling’ is walking about filling His cup with juice or water, or standing at the door handing Him a sandwich ] is, next to being at the altar consecrating bread and wine into Him as food and drink for all, the best place for a priest to ‘kneel’.

Yesterday I had the excellent grace of literally serving the hungry Christ Child on my knees!

So that one of the mother’s might tend to her toddler, I offered to help by feeding the  baby daughter  her bottle.

Since the baby was in a stroller to do so I had to get down on the concrete floor, on my knees – it was to be before the Child Himself in the manger!
Christ Child,  poor, unwashed and smelly.
Christ wide-eyed and beautiful,  hungry.
Christ who with one tiny hand grabbed hold of the cross I wear and played with it.

Calvary and Bethlehem, cave and tomb, Eucharistic adoration, kneeling to feed a hungry, homeless baby – mystery of faith!

It’s okay to dream of going to Africa or some other place to help the refugees in Darfur or the dying on the streets of Calcutta, and it’s okay to walk up and down in front of abortion clinics are pray for the protection of the unborn – indeed all of that is more than okay, it is REALLY important.

However if any of that blinds us to the plight of the already born, of the urban refugees in our midst, of the dying on our own streets, then perhaps, bishops, priests, religious, laity, we need, in the Light of the Risen Christ, to re-visit the Parable of the Good Samaritan…..  

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