Monday, December 16, 2013

Real friends with the poor

This morning as I sat in my pew at Mass, I looked around and noticed all the empty pews in front of me.  There were a few rows of schoolchildren in uniforms, a handful of elderly ladies, the usual crowd. And the thought crossed my our church a church for the rich? O my sweet Jesus, where are Your poor?

I began to envision the pews filled with the poor of General Cepeda.  The women bundled in oversized winter coats, struggling to keep warm.  The children, smiling shyly and huddled beside their mothers.  The men, a little standoffish at first, standing silent but attentive. Why are our churches in America empty of the poor?

Let me first ask myself: when was the last time I invited a poor family or a woman on the street to accompany me to church?

It's so easy to look at them as different, as "other."  It's so easy for me to donate to charitable organizations and consider my obligation fulfilled.  But Jesus didn't ask me to write a check in support of the poor and the unwanted.  Jesus asked me to love them.  And love is personal.

Am I open to the idea of becoming real friends with the poor?

As Christmas approaches and we prepare for gatherings with family and friends, let's consider Jesus' words as he dined at the home of a Pharisee:

"When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your kinsmen or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you."

Maybe you can be Jesus to someone this Christmas.  Maybe you can be a real friend to the poor.