What, finally, shall we say?

homeless-streetsA great poem, shared with me by my friend Roberta Damon:

What, finally, shall we say
In the last moment
When we will be confronted
By the Unimaginable,
The One
Who could not be measured
or contained
In space or time
Who was Love
Unlimited?

What shall we answer
When the question is asked
About our undeeds
Committed
In his name—
In the name of him
For whose sake we promised
To have courage
To abandon everything?

Shall we say
That we didn’t know—
That we couldn’t hear the clatter
Of hearts breaking—
Millions of them—
In lonely rooms, in alleys
     and prisons
And in bars?

Shall we explain
That we thought it mattered
That buildings were constructed
And maintained
In his honor—
That we were occupied
With the arrangements
Of hymns and prayers
And the proper, responsible way
Of doing things?

Shall we tell him
That we had to take care
Of the orderly definition
     of dogmas
So that there was no time
To listen to the
     sobbing
Of the little ones
Huddled in corners
Or the silent despair
Of those already beyond
     sobbing?

Or, shall we say this, too:
That we were afraid—
That we were keeping busy
     with all this
To avoid confrontation
Wih the reality of his
     meaning
Which would lead us to
     repentance—-
That it was fear that
     kept us
Hiding in church pews
And in important boards
     and committees
When he went by?

                     —Ursula Solek

 

Bonus:  Take a look at these pictures and the accompanying story by Ryan Phillips, grandson of Irma Lee Hardie, one of our regular volunteers in Community Missions.

Is It You, Again?

homeless-billYesterday’s sermon from Matthew 25 hinted at the idea that Christ is in every hungry, thirsty, shivering, lonely, sick, or imprisoned person we encounter.  It reminded me of a paragraph from Kathleen Norris’s book Dakota that has brought a smile to my face over and over again through the years.  Let me share it with you here:

Visits to monasteries are as old as monasteries themselves.  We think of monks as being remote from the world, but Saint Benedict, writing in the sixth century, notes that a monastery is never without guests, and admonishes monks to “receive all guests as Christ.”   Monks have been quick to recognize that such hospitality, while undoubtedly a blessing, can also create burdens for them.  A story said to originate in a Russian Orthodox monastery has an older monk telling a younger one: “I have finally learned to accept people as they are.  Whatever they are in the world, a prostitute, a prime minister, it is all the same to me.  But sometimes I see a stranger coming up the road and I say, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ, is it you again?'”

If you say it with just the right inflection, it sums up everything we often feel when we are confronted with the needs of the world.  But if you say it often enough it will also remind you of who is watching and why it matters that we respond with compassion.