In the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus boldly claims: “I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you gave me clothes to wear. I was sick and you took care of me. I was in prison and you visited me… I assure you that when you have done it for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you have done it for me.” Jesus is telling us that His divine presence is in and among the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. The-Word- made-flesh Jesus, now moving into our neighborhood, incarnating in those around us, especially the poor and destitute. God, in Christ, has come close to visit and meet us in Jesus, and has never stopped since, meeting us here and now in the wrinkled faces and the warm embraces of the stranger, in each other, in our pain and loneliness, and especially, in a unique way, in the poor. St. (Mother) Teresa describes it this way: “Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and His hand in every happening… Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread, and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”
In and among us.
And stoops down in the dirt.
to share in our weakness.
And in the poor.
Take that in.
Jesus says in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit (*poor), for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven (*God)” [*Luke’s version]. The poor, those both in economic destitution as well as the poor in spirit, those hurting and crying out for love and affection, have a message to give to us who may be too comfortable and emotionally/economically cushioned to hear: the Gospel of Christ’s Kingdom. May we have ears to hear this good news, of peace, of healing, and of full abundant life that Christ brings. Jesus doesn’t say blessed are those who serve the poor, but blessed are the poor. Lord, give us the eye to see and receive your upside-down Kingdom, in which children lead us, misfits are welcomed, political elite are rebuked, the first shall be last, and the poor are blessed with receiving the Kingdom. May we welcome the little Christs who bring us this message on our journey, the weak and vulnerable ones, whose little words and fragile lives proclaim Christ’s Good News.
Throughout Jesus’ life in the Gospels, He is constantly found eating together, praying together, and celebrating together. Jean Vanier notes that these are the very spaces in which God palpably dwells and meets us, thin places in which the divide between Heaven and Earth is seemingly broken through. This week, may we find Jesus’ distressing disguise at table, in the breaking of bread, both in the Sacrament of Communion, and in the sacrament of life together with the poor, in the faces of those around table, with whom we share our food and our lives. May we be found by Jesus as we pray together, hearing the prayers of our new neighbors and their hearts for each other and You. And Lord, may we be found by you in celebrating together, in the holy chaos that you bring us into, in the ways you mess up and disrupt our lives, leading us through the darkness of the Cross to your dance-party-banquet in the Upper Room, where you are calling us into, from behind our masked existence, into bravely being the children you made us to be, little Christs in the world. Lord, may these places of table, prayer, and celebration be ones that usher us further into your Life, that we would openly receive the Gifts of service that these neighbors are giving us to convert us more into Christ’s image. May we not attempt to bring a perfect Jesus along with us, but rather follow Jesus’ downward path, remembering that Jesus has been here and is here, all around us, in the dirt and the brokenness of our world, making all things new, if we would have eyes to see and ears to hear.
“There are three activities that are absolutely vital in the creation of community. The first is eating together around the same table. The second is praying together. And the third is celebrating together. By celebrating, I mean to laugh, to fool around, to have fun, to give thanks together for life. When we are laughing together with belly laughs, we are all the same. We’re all just belly laughing.”
- Living Gently in a Violent World: The Prophetic Witness of Weakness p. 37
“A growing community must integrate three elements: a life of silent prayer, a life of service and above all of listening to the poor, and a community life through which all its members can grow in their own gift.” – Community and Growth