in the Gospel for today that these are not supposed to be relegated to one single season, but rather to be ways of life that we adopt throughout our days. He wants us to remember that when we give, when we fast, when we pray; we don't do these things to be seen. They aren't means by which we get recognition, but ways in which Christ is born into the world to change not only those who receive the results, but those who do the 'work.' Prayer is an opportunity for us to bring ourselves into line with God, to begin to think the way He thinks, to transform ourselves as much as the world. Fasting again is a way to put God first, to deny our desire for personal pleasure and comfort and instead to fill it with a spiritual food that goes beyond just what can be seen and felt. Anyone who has ever given to the poor, served them, fed them... they can tell you right now it is as much a blessing for them as it was for the one being served.
I watched a documentary on Netflix yesterday about Mother Teresa called Mother Teresa: In the Name of God's Poor. In that short film I was reminded of the call that I feel in my heart daily, a call to service. A need to be a person who goes out of their comfort zone and into the world to feed, care for, and sacrifice for those less fortunate than myself. Mother Teresa reminds us that Jesus is there present in the poor, the destitute the impoverished and the marginalized. It is He whom we are cleaning, feeding, bandaging and lifting up. "Whatever we do for the least of these." Not for our own gain, not for personal glory or recognition, but simply because we love. Mother Teresa loved. She always pointed to Christ. She did not consider it her work at all, but God's work. Anytime someone wanted to interview her she would point to the poor, deflect from recognition, and simply say she wasn't the one who should be seen, but God.
I think of that when I think of the things going on in the world right now. Especially, when I think of the people who were massacred in Orlando just recently. Too many are trying to make this into an us or them situation. Dividing with labels. You either stand with the LGBT community, or you don't, they claim. You either condemn all Muslims or approve, others decry! I stand with every person who was hurt, and pray for all of them, regardless of their orientation or life style. It's not an us or them moment, that's what terrorists want. They want us to be divided. They want there to be a line drawn in the sand that makes us not stand together. I disagree with the beliefs of many people, from the Muslim to the person who thinks Marriage is not a Sacrament.. but I firmly disagree with violence being the answer to our problems.
Are we truly loving our neighbor? When we go into our prayer area and pray in silence, are we loving with our thoughts and words? Are we asking for God's will to be done? Or our own? I believe with all my heart that the Catholic Church teaches the fullness of truth. I also know that we don't always show it. We have a long way to go. Those who pretend that the Church has always been loving toward the LGBT community are living a fantasy. There are still Catholics today who do not live this teaching as it is intended to be lived. How do we grow from here? How do we show love? I think Chic-Fil-A has given us a glimpse with their gesture. Feeding those who give blood, regardless of the orientation of the person who will receive it, regardless of sex, religion, faith, gender or perceived gender.. that's where the true love of Christ is shown.
When we feed the poor we don't need to ask if they are our faith, our race, our gender, hold our beliefs, or any of that.. we just look for the image of God in which they are created. All of us are created in His image. From the poor, the outcast, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the Muslim, the Jew. There is no room for thinking this person is less than that one, or that they need to be loved less. Anytime we dehumanize another person we are walking the same line that Hitler and Stalin walked.. a line in which that person can be terminated for the betterment of the 'true people.' No, we are all true people. We are all loved by God. We all sin and need His grace. That doesn't mean we hide the truth or attempt to change it, but that we love in spite of any differences. That's the teaching of the Church. That you are made in the image of the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. That He loves you and wants to be in relationship with you, and that everything you need to know about that relationship begins with the Incarnation, with the person of Christ Jesus.
This is the truth. We are not there to convert. We are not there to convict. The Holy Spirit is in charge of those things. We are simply there to offer truth, to introduce people to the man who is the most important man in history, the man who has changed our lives and given us a glimmer of hope in a world of violence and darkness. Do you want to meet Him? Are you ready to receive the greatest gift ever offered? Until you are I am here for you, to help you, feed you, serve you... and once you are? Guess what, I still hope to be there to help you, feed, you serve you. That's what it means to be a disciple of Christ.. that's what it means to be Catholic. In the words of my favorite song, "Will you let me be your servant?"
His servant and yours,
"I must decrease, He must increase."