Should you talk to the homeless?

Should you talk to the homeless?

Growing up in upper-middle class America, I was taught that when you see panhandlers and homeless, you shouldn’t give them any money “because they’re probably going to use it on drugs or alcohol.” This popular middle-American proverb has a cousin- “Don’t engage, don’t make eye contact, you don’t know what they’re going to do, and you can’t trust them.”

I never questioned these at all. I never even thought about them. Sure, in high school we would make sandwiches for soup kitchens and have toy drives and can drives and all sorts of events to help out in the community, but the actual, in-person encounters with homeless and beggars was still something that was out of my ability, as far as my teenage self was concerned.

And then something happened. I was riding in the car with a friend, and we came across a homeless man on a street corner. My friend rolled down his window, opened up his wallet, and handed the guy a $20 bill. Being startled (and naturally obnoxious), I said, “I thought you’re not supposed to give to those people, because they might use it for drugs and it will feed their addiction.”

My friend said, calmly, “Well, it’s his choice what he does with it. It’s my job to give.”

homeless_jesus_sm

My friend had planted a seed in my teenage brain. It lay dormant for years, but it was there, and it nagged at me every time I passed someone on the street. Then, something started to happen.

There’s a thing with virtue, called, “fake it til you make it.” (That’s how Aristotle put it, right?) If you want a virtue that you don’t have, start practicing it. For example, if you’re cowardly, start acting as though  you have courage. It will be hard at first, but soon enough it will become second nature. I took this approach with the homeless. I started giving them things, and even saying hello. It was absolutely terrifying at first. But every time I chickened out, I would feel terrible. After all, when Christ himself says, “Whatsoever you do for the least of these, you do unto me”, and “If anyone asks you for your tunic, give him your cloak as well.” Who are we to argue?

I’m ashamed to admit that even recently, I’ve sometimes been afraid to help people in need. Beating back against your ingrained fears is not easy. In the last few months, I’ve been trying this “fake it til you make it” thing- trying to make eye contact, give what I can, and tell them that they are in my prayers. It’s been years and I still haven’t “made it”- but I’m getting better.

And as for those “proverbs”- I know what they are now. They’re from devil, and they’re designed to make us afraid of doing good. The father of lies delights in twisting our thoughts until we’ve decided that it’s wrong to do good. When Christ says to give to those who ask, without counting the cost, Satan says, “Yeah but not to those people who look really poor, because they might hurt you, and your gift might be used wrongly, and it’s not your job anyways- send them to a church.”

We are called to be Christ’s body in this world. We are his hands. We are his heart. We shouldn’t worry so much about the details, but rather we should remember that it is our job to show love, wherever we go, and to whoever we meet. It’s up to them to decide what to do with it, but it’s our job to show love.

He Cried More

He Cried More

Last night I went to my first healing service. I never would have gone on my own, but my mother-in-law has been inviting me for a few months now, so I went. Knock long enough and the door opens.

At one point in the night, I went to confession to a priest I’ve never met, and I told him about the trauma of learning at age 16 that I was born without a uterus. I told him that I didn’t even feel like I belong at a “women’s night” when I’m missing something that is so central to what we perceive womanhood to be. Little girls play with baby dolls, and as Christians we hold a deep love and admiration for the mother of Jesus. I didn’t even know if I would be allowed to be married. I didn’t know how a potential husband would take the news. Pregnancies and talk of “starting a family” bring up a host of traumatic memories and wounds so deep that many will never understand. We talked about that for a long time. And he said something to me that no one has ever said before.

“As much as you’ve cried over this, since age 16, God cried more.”

The priest continued, “He loves life, He loves babies! He didn’t plan for this to happen to you. He is right there with you.”

I have never “blamed” God for MRKH, but I always just kind of assumed that he must be ok with it, since he allowed it. But there is evil in the world as a result of sin, and it has nothing to do with the paradise that God originally planned. There is physical evil, like Ebola and cancer and the common cold, and there is natural evil, like hurricanes and tornadoes… and being born without a uterus. He didn’t want this to happen. It wasn’t part of the plan. It grieves him too.

He cried more.

The Body of Christ: Beaten and Bruised, Stolen and Mocked, Adored and Glorified

The Body of Christ: Beaten and Bruised, Stolen and Mocked, Adored and Glorified
The following is not my own, but something that must be shared. This completely floored me today. It reads like something from St. Lawrence or the other martyrs. I had to share it with you. I hope it goes viral among Catholics. I found this on Facebook today, shared by my husband’s uncle who is a Roman Catholic Priest. He didn’t write it. It looks like writer is Steven R. Sanchez. Mr. Sanchez, please correct me if I am wrong. I have nothing to add. Here you go:

 

 

I have been trying to put a few things together in my mind and I welcome the intervention of my friends and my betters.

For the last week I have been incredibly bothered by a homily I heard on the Feast of the Assumption. The priest began speaking about hope and goodness promised by the Assumption in the face of what seems like a negation, like death. He then said “Surely all of you are aware of the terrible thing happening in the Midwest.” At this point, I was certain and completely moved that he was going to say “In Ferguson, Missouri . . . ” Instead he said, “In Oklahoma City . . . “

I was completely floored. Not only did I not have a clue what he was referring to, when he finally did get to the point (some Satanists were trying to hold a black mass with a consecrated host) I was absolutely shocked.

Literally, in the preceding weeks, women and children fleeing the poverty and violence of their homes had been met by utter violence and hatred at the American border, Iraqi Christians had been exiled, crucified, and their children decapitated by ISIS, and in ANOTHER MIDWEST TOWN, an unarmed young black man had been shot and killed by a police officer and the result was utter chaos in the streets and a police response that I could only stare mouth agape as TANKS ROLLED DOWN THE STREETS OF AN AMERICAN TOWN WITH GUNS AIMED AT AMERICAN CITIZENS.

And instead, for this young priest, the greatest evil facing our country, the evil we in BROOKLYN had to join in and pray for a miracle, pray for an end to the evil, was this Black Mass in Oklahoma.

And so I began to think about this. Something bothered me about this whole juxtaposition. Was this priest right? Was it that in some profound cosmic mystery the Black Mass was more serious and dangerous than everything else?

You see, these Satanists were trying to get their hands on a consecrated host, on the real presence of Christ. Not just a symbol, not just some bread that they could pretend was a consecrated host, they wanted to get their hands on the real thing . . . the body of Christ. And this image began to ruminate in me.

On the border of Mexico in Texas and California the body of Christ, present in these women and children coming to our country with all of the hope of a better life, was rejected. “Go home. We don’t want you here. America for Americans.” Yes, America for Americans, not America for the poor, not for the marginalized, not for the stranger, not the outcast, nor the orphan and the widow . . . No, not them. Not those stinking dirty brown faces that came here–gasp–illegally! No, not that Body of Christ.

And in Iraq. Not those nazarenes. Not them. Send them away. Kill them if they stay. And we can sit comfortably by while they suffer. And our president can golf. And our congress can pontificate. And our elite can talk about how we can’t go back there. Can’t help them. And isn’t it all too bad. We don’t really want to get involved. Not with that Body of Christ, persecuted and martyred.

And in Ferguson. It’s just easier to look at this police officer as a racist murderer. To look at Michael Brown as the latest victim of a racist society. And especially from the other side of those tanks, to look at those crowds of young men and women, angry and hurt, as just violent criminals that we must STOP before they loot and hurt those businesses, by ANY MEANS NECESSARY it seems. Because to look at them as people, wounded, fragile, full of desire for love and truth and beauty . . . well, then, I might have to put my ideology aside and actually feel something. Maybe even weep. No, let’s talk about the plight of the black man, the racism of the white man, the inherent goodness of the police, the slant of the media, the rush to judgment . . . let’s talk about men in general, because they don’t have bodies . . . No, no body of Christ for us here either. Just sociological claims and political posturing. Right and Left and Republican and Democrat. Men and women without flesh. Ideas without bodies.

You see, for me the irony is that we ignore the body of Christ in Mosul. We disincarnate the Body of Christ in Ferguson. We reject the Body of Christ on the border. But in Oklahoma City, there, Satanists are trying to get their hands on the Body of Christ. For all their perversion, they’re the only ones who are trying to get their hands on Him.

And what were they going to do? Commit a sacrilege? Trample it? Beat it? Profane it? The first time that happened, He had handed himself over for it. When Peter raised his sword to defend him, he was rebuked. The Son of Man must suffer and die. And we’re scandalized by some Satanists? This is where we spend our energy?

You see, I’m not a bishop. (I’m sure the whole Church should rejoice in that.) But if I were. If I was the Bishop of Oklahoma City, I would have said “Ok, you want the Body of Christ so badly, I’ll take him to you.” And I would have invited my flock to go with me. We would have walked through the streets of Oklahoma City, from the Cathedral to the Convention Center where these Satanists would be waiting, and Monstrance in Hand I would have led my flock. I would have led them right inside. I would have led them right up to their altar. I would have turned, and offered the benediction, and I would have prostrated myself, and invited my flock to prostrate itself. We would have prostrated ourselves and there offered ourselves to his Presence. And we would have stayed. Let them Crucify him, but I would adore him. And I would have wept. Wept for these poor confused Satanists. Wept for Iraq. For Isis. For Ferguson. For those women and children at the border. For America. But most of all, I would have wept for Him. Him who I long for and I am so unfaithful to. Him who I want to love but everyday I crucify. Him who is the only one that can respond to this deep and utterly profound need I have for happiness. And I doubt there would have been a black mass. But I’m probably wrong, and I would have handed him over myself, and then I would have shown myself to be like Judas. Again.

This is probably why I’m not a bishop.