Tag Archives: homeless

The Disciple

By Orlando Hernandez

In this Wednesday’s Gospel (Lk 10: 1-9) it says:

The Lord Jesus appointed seventy-two disciples whom He sent ahead of Him in pairs to every town and place He intended to visit. He said to them, “ The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals; and greet no one along the way. Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘ Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you. Stay in the same house and eat and drink what is offered to you, for the laborer deserves payment. Do not move about from one house to another. Whatever town you enter and they welcome you, eat what is set before you, cure the sick in it and say to them, ‘ The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”

A friend of ours has been a member of our prayer group at the Passionist Monastery in Jamaica, Queens for the past two years. Through a series of unfortunate events, a few months ago, he lost the apartment that he had inherited from his parents. His Social Security check is not enough for him to get a place, and he has no family left, so he lives in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. He is trying to get affordable housing through the social workers there. It has been a slow process.

Like the apostles that Jesus sent out he’s practically penniless and homeless, and lives out there like a “lamb among wolves.” He takes a series of trains so the he can come from Bedford-Stuyvesant to the Jamaica Monastery for Mass during the week, and to celebrate the Eucharist and praise the Lord with our prayer group on Sundays. We have raised a decent sum of money for him, but he prefers that we hold it until he can get a place of his own. One of the members of our group is dealing with the social workers to work something out so that he can rent an apartment in her house. We are waiting to see what happens.

He is lonely. He loves the company of our prayer group. He comes with an affable disposition and a positive attitude. He enters our chapel where he is indeed welcomed, and can “eat and drink” the best food in the world. He loves to praise and dance with our group, but sometimes he just sits there quietly and looks quite sad. People come and pray over him, and ask him how they can help him. He’s embarrassed and says he’s okey.

Sometimes he tells me that he thinks that God has put him in the doghouse and he doesn’t know why, but he keeps on coming, and praying, and participating. The other day I realized that he was like those 72 homeless disciples, coming to our House of God to bring his peace and brotherhood to all of us, to share his dignity, his patience and his faith —to represent our Lord. My spiritual director, Fr. John Powers,CP, says that being in need is one of the greatest ministries. It can inspire us to empathy, compassion, respect, and sacrifice for our hurting brothers and sisters. Jesus is there in so many ways. Our beautiful, humble, persevering friend is indeed coming to announce Jesus, to tell us by his very presence “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand for you.”

Orlando Hernandez

Morning Thoughts: Stench of the Cross

Rembrandt Begger Seated on a Bank (1630)

Rembrandt, “Beggar Seated on a Bank”, (1630)


 

For we are to God the sweet aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing...

—2 Corinthians 2:15


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We see so many images of Christ Crucified. Museums and churches are full of them. And they should be. It is the greatest paradox ever told.

And to go along with the abundance of visual representations, there are of course also many artworks in written form depicting the Passion of Jesus Christ. Shelf after shelf can be filled with books containing the seemingly endless repertoire of poems, plays, and musical compositions based on the subject.

But none can capture the stench of death.

Smell moves us like no other sense.

It is so powerful. So quick. So nauseating.

Think of that the next time you’re riding the subway on your way to a museum. Think of that when a homeless man enters your subway car. Think of that when you’re tempted to switch trains at the next stop due to the stench.

Breathe deep instead.

Think of the stench. Think of that poor man—that poor sorrowful man dying right in front of you. The stench of rotting flesh. The stench of death.

No artwork that you’re on your way to see will bring Jesus and His Cross more to life.

Take a deep breath, and pray. You’re on holy ground.

Pray for yourself. Pray for the man. Pray for all those on board. Pray for the entire world.

Pray that that particular stench, that stench of death, right then and there, brings life.

That it brings life to hardened hearts.

That it brings life to senses numbed to the utter poverty of human suffering—suffering that manifests itself in oh so many ways.

That it brings life to what the world says can’t and shouldn’t be redeemed.

And give that gentleman a few bucks.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art recommends an entrance fee of twenty-five dollars. Do you know how much consolation that poor suffering Christ riding right next to you would receive if you gave him that much?

Do you know how cheap a price that is to pay to be able to get so close to a living breathing masterpiece of sacrificial life?

Dig in deep. Dig into your pockets. Dig deep into the reserves of your heart.

You will be amazed how such a prayer, such an act of compassion, such a “living faith”, will transform the stench of death into the aroma of life.

Breathe deep. Pick up your cross. Die daily.

Get over yourself.

What a breath of fresh air!

Now that’s truly an entrance fee.

And it’s worth every drop.


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Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

—John 12:3


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—Howard Hain

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Black Friday and Christmas

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Now that Black Friday is over maybe we can get down to thinking about Christmas. For four weeks we prepare for that feast in the season of Advent.

The best place to look for the meaning of Christmas is the scriptural readings for these next four weeks. A timely source I suggest we add to them is the recent Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, “The Joy of the Gospel.”

The Old Testament readings for today and all through the 1st Week of Advent are from Isaiah. Even if you can’t get to Mass, take a look at them, they make wonderful readings for Advent.

Isaiah promises salvation for all people, and one of his favorite images to describe God’s promise is found in this Sunday’s reading: Isaiah 2:1-5. All nations will stream to God’s mountain for instruction. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.” Wars are no more; a fragmented humanity becomes one.

Quite a claim, considering that Assyrian armies were laying waste the towns and cities of Israel and Judea as Isaiah spoke. But God’s promise trumps all human conquests.

For Isaiah, the mountain of the Lord is Jerusalem, on which the Jewish temple is built. All nations will come there; they will be fed a rich banquet (Wednesday), the poor will be welcomed there (Thursday), the blind will see there (Friday); it’s the rock where people will dwell safely, where children play around the cobra’s den, and the lion and the lamb lie down together (Tuesday). The prophet’s imagery in these readings is strikingly beautiful.

The Gospels for the 1st week point to the fulfillment of the Isaian prophecies in Jesus Christ. The Roman centurion humbly approaching Jesus in Capernaum represents all the nations that will come to him. (Monday) Jesus praises the childlike, who will enter the kingdom of heaven. (Tuesday) He feeds a multitude on the mountain.(Wednesday) He affirms that his kingdom will be built on rock. (Thursday) He gives sight to the blind. (Friday)

Remember, too, that Matthew’s gospel, source of many of our Advent readings, portrays Jesus teaching on a mountain (Isaiah’s favorite symbol) and working great miracles there that benefit all who come. He is the new temple, the new Presence of God, Emmanuel, God with us.

Prophets like Isaiah were brave people, brave enough to speak when all seemed lost. They’re strong people, strong enough to hope when hope seems gone. And something of that prophetic spirit is in Pope Francis, I believe, who last week issued an important exhortation to the church.

He says that we can’t bring the gospel to the world if we don’t know what our world needs. We can’t bring greater human life to our world if we don’t realize what disfigures human dignity now.

What disfigures human dignity today is social inequality. Money had become our god. He speaks of the “tyranny of the financial markets.” We pay attention to a 2% drop in the stock market and ignore the death of a homeless man who dies in the cold. We’re a throw-away society. Not only do we discard things, we discard people. We tend to exploit immigrants and then throw them away. We ignore the economically unproductive, who may be without jobs or skills or socially deprived through sickness or being displaced.

The pope’s message is a hard-hitting restatement of traditional Catholic social teaching. It’s interesting to see a papal document quoted so freely on Tweeter, Facebook and the social media. It’s because he’s touched on something we need to hear.

The front page of the Asbury Park Press this morning seemed to echo the picture the pope painted in his recent address. There’s the big picture of smiling shoppers fresh from the stores on Black Friday holding their precious treasures. Next to it is a story of a homeless man who died in the cold yesterday.

No picture of him at all.