The Distressing Disguise of the Poor

The following has nothing to do with me, but has everything to do with the poor, the downtrodden, the abandoned.  I feel a conviction to share this.

First, please watch the following video.  I would be surprised if your heart is not moved.

This man is speaking to the heart of the matter.  We see the poor everywhere.  Yet, how often we shun them, ignore them, walk past them.  How often we forget Jesus’ words “you did it to me”.  How often we forget that each person down on their luck that we ignore is a sacrament to us: they manifest the presence of Jesus in the world.  I am not being poetic here.  I am being frank and blunt.  It is a fact: the poor are Christ to us.  We run to devotions, Masses, adoration, scripture studies, faith classes, gatherings, fundraisers, etc, yet why do we run away from Christ in the poor?  I am not saying we ought not do the other things.  I am saying, though, that we need to be consistent in our faith.  If all we do is things within the parish, then we are doing something wrong because we are ignoring Christ in His most blunt presentation of Himself to us.

We run away from the poor because we run away from Christ.  This is not anything new.  We do it every time we sin.  Every sin is a turning away from Jesus and a turning towards ourselves.  So it is no surprise that when Jesus is most clearly in our face, we so easily run away from Him.  We ought not to be surprised.  This is the mystery of iniquity.  We are afraid to encounter Jesus because we are afraid of how much encountering Him will challenge us, will change us.  Deep down, we are content with ourselves.  Contentment means lukewarmness and Jesus, speaking to the Church in Laodicea in the Book of Revelation, has harsh words for those who are lukewarm.  We can’t be lukewarm because lukewarmness breads contentment, and contentment breads fear of encountering the Lord.  But we are content, and we fear encountering Jesus, and so we ignore the poor.

I know myself that encountering the poor and the hardened is where the encounter with Christ is most intense.  It is most real.  I fear those encounters because I too am content, am satisfied with the status quo.  But Jesus did not come to affirm the status quo, but to challenge us towards the status quo of His Kingdom, which is not static and lifeless, but always lifegiving.

Seeing videos like the one above, going into the rough parts of San Fran with the sisters, working with those who have hit rock bottom or are nearing death at the hospice only shows me how much I have accepted the status quo of this world and how I need to aim for the realm of Christ’s kingdom, and to live it now, and to bring His presence into the lives of those who are forgotten and abandoned.

Dear friends.  This may sound harsh, but it is true: serving the poor is not an option for some, it is a duty for all.  Read Matthew 25:14-30.  Jesus does not mince words when it comes to loving those who are unloved because it is, ultimately, an act of adoration and worship towards Him.  If we claim to adore Him in the Eucharist, then we need to have the same reverence for Him in the poor, the abandoned, the imprisoned, the dying, the naked, the thirsty.  If we do not, then we are not obeying His command and will be like the people who say to Him “Lord, where were you that I could feed you, give you drink, etc?”  Jesus’ words are harsh to those who do not accept His presence in the most distressing disguise.  Mother Teresa understood that.  If we find ourselves nervous, fearful, scared out of our minds at the thought of encountering the poor: GOOD!  How much more is the fear, nervousness, sense of abandonment in those who are on the streets and alone?  We need to get past our own selfish concerns and think how truly bad it is for others.  It is bad.  Look at Ronald’s story. IT IS BAD.  We have it good.  Too good, in my opinion.  We have everything, they have nothing.  How is it that we can sit back and enjoy the “fine things of life” while people are struggling to get a bit of food and a roof over their heads at night?  This should make us uncomfortable.  Pope Francis wants a Church that is poor for the sake of the poor.  We need, each and every one of us, to embrace such a mission.  That is the mission of every Christian because that is the mission of Christ.

To serve the poor.  This is not the duty of governments, of “programs” of “bureaucracies”.  It is the duty of an individual who represents Christ’s Bride, the Church.  Bureaucracies, programs, social assistance will not do a lick of good.  Why?  Because talking to the men who come to Gift of Love, who have been given every bit of opportunity through programs, tell me so.  What helps, what changes a life, is an encounter between persons.  Jesus said “Where two or more are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.”  When we serve the poor, it is an ecclesial act because it is an act of the Church coming together because Christ is there in us ministering to those who are less fortunate and, more importantly, he is present in them because it is with them, not us, that Jesus identifies with most.

Come, let us adore Him.  Let us adore Him on the streets.  Let us adore Him bedridden on the hospital beds.  Let us adore Him passed out from too much to drink on the street.  Let us adore Him coming of an addiction.  Let us adore Him because He is abandoned by His family.  Let us adore Him.  Let us adore Him.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “The Distressing Disguise of the Poor

  1. Amen. Catherine de Heuck Doherty called it Poustinia in the market place, meaning bringing the results of silence and prayer into society

  2. Pingback: The Distressing Disguise of the Poor | Catholic Canada

  3. The struggling, sick, lonely forgotten elderly in nursing homes are also Jesus in the distressing disguise of the poor. A disturbing but necessary post! Thank you.

  4. This really touched me. Thank you for your perspective! Something I am struggling with is the uproar from The Boston bombings, when people die so frequently from starvation. Thoughts?

  5. Thank you for the beautiful reminder. This was the subject of my meditation this evening. May God bless you!

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