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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

"If you did not touch him, you did not meet him"

My son and I went for a drink at a café last night, and sat at a table in the front window. There was a homeless man sitting on the porch, alone. As Isaac and I drank our root beers, a young woman quietly walked up to the man and spoke with him. She came inside, purchased a coffee, filled it with cream and sugar, then went back outside to deliver it to the man.

This was impressive enough. The woman was discreet, and clearly didn't want to draw attention to herself. But what impressed me most deeply about her was that she didn't just buy this man a coffee. She talked with him, looked him in the eye, and touched him on the shoulder unselfconsciously and with evident care. She provided for me, as a parent, a teaching moment as I pointed out to Isaac what she was doing. She also taught me by modelling the kind of generous love to which we are called as Christians.

I couldn't help but be reminded of something Pope Francis said to his fellow Argentinians in August 2013 as they gathered to celebrate the feast of St Gaetano. In his talk, Pope Francis talked specifically not just about giving alms, but about how we should give alms. He did this by going through the questions he asks people when it comes to giving to the poor:
“Do you give alms?
“They tell me, ‘Yes, Father.’
“And when you give alms do you look in the eyes of the people you give them to?
‘Oh, I don’t know, I don’t notice.’
“Look, he has not met the people. He threw the alms and left. When he gives the alms, does his hand touch (the hand of the poor) or does he toss the coin?”
“No, you throw the coin. And you have not touched, and if you did not touch him, you did not meet him.”
“What Jesus teaches us is first to meet, and (after) meeting, to help. We need to know how to meet. We need to build, to create, to construct a culture of encounter.”
At a Heine Brothers Coffee shop on the corner of Bardstown Road and Longest Avenue, I saw a young woman truly meet a homeless man. Yes, there is more to generous love than just buying someone a coffee, talking to them, and touching them. There are systematic changes that need to take place in our society such that we truly care for the poor. However, such changes take place through transformed hearts, hearts like the one I saw yesterday that convict me to love more fully.

Picture from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-we-will-be-judged-by-our-behavior-towards-others/
Text from Pope Francis' talk from http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/touch-the-poor-and-needy-pope-tells-argentineans/

3 comments:

  1. Hi, Greg, there's an old saying from Scots Gaelic - "Often, often, often goes the Christ, in the stranger's guise."

    You & your son were truly blessed to see what you did. Christ present among you.

    God bless,

    John Macleod

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  2. Greg, you and your son were truly blessed. Your reflection makes me think that if you are not already, you should consider the diaconate. We need more who will see the Christ in others. The Christ in the poor and homeless, the Christ who touches them with compassion, healing, and love. God bless you and your son, and keep you in his Light.

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  3. We should all go and do likewise. Be Christ present where he calls us to be.

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