Last week we looked at how Jesus called his disciples to stretch and expand in their service to those in need. They wanted to send the crowd away and let them fend for themselves, but Jesus tells them, “You give them something to eat.”
Now we are going to apply this to ourselves.
Passing the buck
The disciples wanted to get out of taking care of the people themselves. It’s easy to say, “Well, I’m a member of this parish or this church. Let them take care of the needy.” Or, “That’s the job of the government.”
But what did Jesus tell the disciples? YOU give them something to eat.
Father Rick Thomas used to say, “If you haven’t dealt with the poor, you really haven’t met Jesus, and Jesus hasn’t met you. There’s no substitute for meeting Jesus in the suffering. As soon as you have genuine contact with the poor, you’re going to have a conversion, unless you’re extremely hard-hearted. You’ll see they’re the same as you.”
So someway and somehow, it’s important for Christians to have personal contact with those who are less fortunate than ourselves. How can we do that? We need to get creative.
Works of Mercy
I suggest taking a look at the Church’s list of the corporal works of mercy and start there. Here are a few ideas:
Feeding the hungry
Is there someone in your neighborhood who lives alone, someone elderly, or widowed, that only buys fast food or microwave dinners. Maybe your family can cook them a meal once in a while and visit them too.
Or bake some Christmas cookies, package them, and find some homeless people begging on the streets. Bring them some Christmas cheer.
Visit the prisoners
Maybe you can’t go into an actual jail for ministry. But how about getting the address of an inmate that has no one to write to them, and mail them a postcard. Find out the regulation of that particular jail and what they allow in. You could “visit” a prisoner through a postcard or letter you send him or her.
(Click on this link for even more ideas.)
The Church also has a list of spiritual works of mercy. Take a look at that list, too, and see where you can reach out and make a difference.
Comforting the Sorrowful
Make it a point to go to the funeral services of people you know. It can mean so much to the grieving family members.
I have a friend who volunteers to do the music at the funeral services her church puts on for the homeless who die without known family or friends.
Bear Wrongs Patiently
There are so many opportunities in a family, or at work, or any relationship you have, to bear with wrongs patiently.
- If someone cuts you off in traffic, instead of honking your horn, smile and wave.
- If someone is rude to you at the store, smile and say something kind.
- If it’s not your turn to do the dishes but the other person hasn’t done them, do them for him or her.
- Someone forgot to take out the trash and it stinks? Instead of complaining, take it out with a smile.
Instruct the ignorant
You may not be a teacher, but maybe you can buy some school supplies for children that can’t afford it. Or volunteer to teach a religious ed class in your parish. Or offer to tutor someone.
Begin with a little offering. Remember the disciples – they only gave Jesus five loaves and two fish to work with. But with that tiny amount, they fed thousands of people and even had leftovers. We can never out-give God.
As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, let us examine our hearts and see how we are responding to his call to be light to this world. We may not think we have much to give, but in the Lord’s hands, it can bear tremendous fruit in bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth.