Sunday is the day of the week that I reflect on a theme from the current church season we find ourselves in. Currently that season is “Epiphany.”
Epiphany is a season when the Church reflects on how Jesus is revealed as God in the Gospels. Usually this means looking to such occurrences as Jesus’ Baptism, the visit of the Magi, or the miracle accounts like the Wedding of Cana. If Epiphany is truly a season where we remember the ways in which Christ is said to be revealed as God, then what about Christ’s mysterious connection with the poor? The words of Matthew 25 pierce my heart each time I read them:
Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you invited me into your home.”- Matthew 25:34-35
Do we see Christ in the materially, emotionally, or spiritually poor? Is there any sort of Epiphany that happens when we see a brother or sister in need? Do we even see them … let alone recognized the breath of God in them? Do we see past the cultural scripts that blind us? Do we even see the need for those who struggle with depression, loneliness, or alcohol addiction to be loved as Christ?
Are we even capable of being wounded by the poverty of this age?
“Who can listen to a story of loneliness and despair without taking the risk of experiencing similar pains in his own heart and even losing his precious peace of mind? In short: Who can take away suffering without entering it?” - Henri Nouwen
Have you ever hugged a homeless meth-head? Did your heart ever break for the prostitutes on the streets corners? Are you wounded for those who make pornography … and those who watch it? Have you ever taken interest in a “goth” teenager who struggles with suicide? If so… good for you… but … have you ever seen Christ in them?
It is one thing to provide a service and yet another thing entirely to act in holy love towards another. Service keeps an “it” an “it” ; however, holy love turns an “it” into a “Thou.” We are called to more than just being a ”service provider” for the materially, emotionally, spiritually poor: dropping spare change in the Salvation Army box outside of Walmart, or sending a check to the Red-Cross for each “natural disaster”, or institutionalizing the emotionally afflicted. Any atheist, humanist, or progressive liberal can care for “the least of these” … but only the Church as Christ’s body can embrace them as Christ. We are called to see God in them, to practice hospitality, and above all to love them sacrificially.
We beseech thee, Master, to be our helper and protector. Save the afflicted among us; have mercy on the lowly; raise up the fallen; appear to the needy; heal the ungodly; restore the wanderers of thy people; feed the hungry; ransom our prisoners; raise up the sick; comfort the faint-hearted. - Clement I (99 C.E.)