“The God who made the universe became a homeless person.”
Our Lenten Journey through the Corporal Works of Mercy continues.
‘The Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ (Matthew 8:20)
“Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, was born in a borrowed manger, had no fixed address once he began his public ministry, and was buried in another man’s grave. It is quite an irony: the God who made the universe became a homeless person.
In our present reality we see and hear of many persons who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in heart-rending dilemmas of asking ‘how in the world can I find a place of shelter and safety for my family or for myself?” The loss of jobs, loss of income, issues of health and socialized stigma has become burdens for literally thousands of families in our regions. Such experiences of loss impact all family members, parents and children. Children suffer incredible stress when they do not have food for breakfast, lunch and supper. No one can learn when they lack nourishment. They suffer socially when lack of clothing and a lack of a secure address prevent them from attending school. We must walk in their shoes and try to imagine how we would respond to such stress each day.
This corporal work of mercy forces us to open our eyes to the misery of those who, for a variety of reasons, have no place they can call home. We are called as Christians to walk the talk and to be a voice, a hand and a person who reaches out to embrace and accompany our sisters and brother in their search to find a place of shelter and a home for their children.
Faith communities and our Catholic communities are responding to the Gospel call to provide shelter for the homeless. These initiatives deserve our financial support and, if possible, our volunteer efforts. Along with providing a temporary roof over their heads, we need to help those homeless who are able to do so to get back on their feet and accompany them on the difficult path that leads to the dignity of being able to afford a place to stay. This can involve helping with job skills or offering employment. Whenever possible, we should give a hand up as well as a handout. We should also encourage efforts to provide for affordable housing in our local communities that often struggle with high real estate prices.
Even as we grapple as a society and Church with the overarching challenge of homelessness, there still are those poor individuals we encounter every day who, like the Son of Man, have nowhere to lay their head. Some of them suffer from serious mental illness and require the help of any but those with professional training. But a kind word, and some spare change, can brighten their day. As with the other works of mercy, sheltering the homeless requires discernment and the stewardship of our resources. Yet when in doubt, it is better to err on the side of charity.
This work of mercy also invites to ask ourselves how hospitable we are. Do we make of our home a place where guests feel welcome and cherished? Do we create an
environment where those who are not literally homeless but feel adrift and isolated find a welcome? St. Theresa reminds us that we are the hands, the voice and the heart of Christ to each person we meet, especially to those most in need of mercy, compassion and a place of security where we find shelter.”
(Margie Gillis, Diocese of Antigonish in Corporal Works of Mercy, Atlantic Liturgical Commission, 2021)
“No matter how you choose to contribute, it will have a big impact.”
Our youth on sheltering the homeless:
Each Sunday of Lent, plus Palm Sunday and Wednesday of Holy Week, we will share a reflection and video to learn of and practise the seven Corporal Works of Mercy:
The information is based on a new resource prepared by the Atlantic Liturgical Commission, and includes submission from diocesan staff and clergy throughout the Atlantic Provinces.
(Click on the image to download)
We invite you to download the resource and celebrate the prayer services at home. The music, readings, reflections and prayers are provided for you and you may wish simply to use, for example, the YouTube link for the hymn, but if you are able to sing yourselves then that is encouraged. We invite you to use these rituals in ways that work best for you and your situations. That we gather to pray and act is the most important thing.
Watch for our next posting on the Fourth Sunday of Lent: Visit the Sick