Reflection for Sunday – June 25, 2017
Preacher: Annie Horras
About nine months ago I moved into St. Joseph’s House of Hospitality, which has been standing in the same spot on South Avenue for 75 years. The Catholic Worker movement, founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933 in New York City, has been built upon the teachings of Jesus, especially from the Sermon on the Mount, the teachings of the Catholic Church and the social encyclicals of modern popes.
We serve a population that is “poor and marginalized,” hoping to provide them with, “a new society within the shell of the old, a society in which it will be easier to be good.” When we are able to shape this kind of society, we leave no room for economic exploitation or war; for racial, gender or religious discrimination; and we can move forward through injustices by using words and actions of non-violent practices.
At our house anyone can come in to get a meal, take a shower, get toiletries, do a load of laundry, receive clothes, get assistance for DSS services, find a friend to talk to and so on. We have volunteer opportunities for individuals who have the desire to do more hands-on work with the poor. We provide shelter during the cold months to homeless men who would otherwise be forced to sleep outside in the bitter cold. We also serve as advocates for many of our guests because in our environment there is blatant discrimination against those living in the streets, even from those who try to help.
This is an experience where change is inevitable. Whether it is good or bad, change is up to the person who is choosing to go through this journey. I moved into the house, with a few other community members, with the expectation of doing the work of Jesus and giving of myself as best I can. However, my best can always be better. I came into this new world realizing how blind I have been. I called myself Catholic, but did I actually believe what the Gospels were trying to teach me? God says, “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows,” but was I treating all people as if they were worth that much to God?
I had never once passed a panhandler thinking, “this is my brother. We are worth the same.” And I sadly look back at my former self and angrily ask, “Why?”
What has made me better than the people who live in the tents or who sleep in the bushes? Absolutely nothing. I’m just as spiritually and physically lost as anyone. But I am in the right place at the right time.
I came into this place I now call my home wanting to change others, to help them grow, to help them continue to live and instead they brought me to life. I have conversations with guests about their lives, struggling with addiction, keeping apartments, developing relationships, getting things stolen from them in shelters, missing appointments and having to walk for miles and miles everyday.
It teaches me compassion and also shows me how ignorant I am about what it’s like to live in poverty. There are times during the day when I grow weary because I feel as if I give so much of myself emotionally and physically to people who aren’t always openly thankful.
Sometimes I react out of anger and frustration and forget that I am speaking to a person of God who often is suffering through far worse conditions. How often do I thank Jesus for dying on the Cross for me? Not enough to have the right to ask for gratitude when I am not doing a favor, but doing what God has been asking of me all along, “Feed my sheep.”
I’ve been thinking about this phrase, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.” It makes me contemplate what it means to disown Jesus. We are all created in God’s image and yet, we forget to value each other that way. God has called all of us to serve: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, care for the sick, visit the imprisoned and bury the dead.
God sacrificed His son so that we might live, but we are too distracted by our own expectations to recognize the gift of Jesus in the poor. We are denying Jesus when we deny the poor. Jesus suffered more than we will ever know. And all we are asked is to serve one another, especially the poor. I’m hoping that one day we can all leave everything the world expects of us behind, give ourselves, not just our money, to the poor, and carry all our crosses together through Christ, the way He taught us.