This story by Eric Debode, fellow Catholic Worker is dedicated to the homeless residents of SAFE PARK and Councilman Steve Kozachik and his colleagues on the City Council, for NOT ACCEPTING THE STATUS QUO and instead trying to find short and long term solutions to inequality and human suffering on the mean streets of Tucson and America.
HALF MOON BAY CATHOLIC WORKER
COMPASSION AND GENEROSITY TOWARD THE SUFFERING
by ERIC DEBODE
On Christmas Eve morning one of our regular guests, Madelia, called me to tell me that she had been in the hospital the night before and was very sick. She would not be able to come in for breakfast and pick up the gifts we had collected for her three young children. But her husband, who had been laid off as a gardener at the golf course could stop by before 10am if we would still be there. I told her I would wait for him. I hung up the phone, and just then a supporter came by with a box full of ham, turkey, potatoes, salad, vegetables and all the “fixins” for a fabulous Christmas dinner. I knew immediately it had to go to Madelia, who wasn’t well enough to cook.
Our life is a great gift, and accompanying people on the margins sometimes gives us the blessing of seeing when generosity meets needs, people get loved, and the Kingdom we hope for peeks through for a moment
The Catholic Worker is a movement of accompaniment of those who struggle. Wherever we are, whatever city or town, we can always find the latest manifestation of the cross whether in homelessness, lack of affordable housing, health care needs, worker’s rights, peacemaking or restorative justice work.
“Do not be afraid,” says Jesus, over and over. Take courage (have heart!) and be open to the Spirit of Life which is about personal, self-sacrificing service to people in need, the struggling families, homeless poor, sick veterans, and frightened immigrants.
Have Compassion and be Generous toward the Suffering.
I think that sums up the best of just about any religion. It surely entails a prayer-filled spiritual life; the deep desire only to dwell in the presence of our God. It also calls us to relationship, to “hear the cry of the poor,” and respond. We must “Stay Awake!” And we must also act. The public ministry of Jesus was action-packed. There were healings, preachings, and forgivings…all peppered with a forceful challenge to religious leaders to stop wasting time monitoring purity and worthiness, and making people feel like they are less than a wondrous child of God.
“Jesus looked on him, and loved him.” Like a good pastor, he fell in love with the people, rich and poor alike. But that didn’t mean he endorsed the status quo. No, compassion and generosity toward the suffering means asking when having enough stuff is enough stuff. It doesn’t mean asking how we, as a community, can let people live in tents in our city. It means asking how I can let people live in tents in our city. “How will I respond to the suffering in my midst?”
St. Ignatius used to encourage those who pray to do an ‘examination of the senses” while meditating on a scripture passage. For example, if the scripture was about the Nativity, he would ask us to smell the manger’s stinky animal smells, feel the cold, and hear the sounds of sheep and goats in their pens or fields. This way of entering the scene with our whole body enriches the prayerful experience, and opens us up to “be present” in an old story. We must also be present to today’s story.
If you haven’t already, I invite you to walk behind Safeway, or under the bridge along Cabrillo Hwy. just South of Burger King, or come to our free community breakfast. Take in the sensual experience of the cold, wet air, the noisy highway that people sleep underneath, and the smells. Then, go to a quiet place to pray. Perhaps a feeling will well up within you, first of gratitude, maybe some guilt, but finally an overwhelming desire to help usher in that “Kingdom of God,” and the compassion and generosity that Jesus exemplified. Recall the stories and parable-teachings, finally understand why Jesus was so impatient with the religious hierarchy. Go forth, heal, be generous, let go of what “has a hold” on you, and trust in the abundant graces of our loving God. Peace.