Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Least of These

This is Mr. Weber's address to JPII students on August 30, 2010.

This afternoon we will have representatives from many of the volunteer agencies that you support through your commitment to Christian Service. We have asked them to come out today so they can explain what their particular ministry is and give you a chance to ask questions, so that you can find an agency that you feel good about giving your time to. There’s a huge array of choices, ranging from ministering to the elderly, to tutoring young children, to working with the homeless, to supporting an inner city outreach to the poor via Saturday morning football clinics and tutoring. I ask that you take this time seriously, so that you find the right place for yourself this year.

My 21 year old daughter Cynthia spent a month in India working with a Catholic school there that teaches girls from the streets of Calcutta. Her comment coming home was that we here in the United States have no concept of the kind of poverty you see there. Walking the streets, she said, often gave her the feeling that she was violating a family’s privacy, because families, without homes, would often be in the middle of giving their kids a bath, or using the bathroom right there on the streets, or involved in some sort of intimate moment with their child. But the part that gave her nightmares was the day at the Calcutta train station she spent with a young woman who volunteered with Mother Theresa’s center for the aging and dying. It is apparently fairly common that poor families, unable to care for their parents or grandparents any longer, will abandon them at the train station between stops, telling them they’ll come back for them when in fact they have no intention of doing so. Droves of elderly men and women, without food, without anything really, sit there at the station, waiting for their children to return. Each morning, Mother Theresa’s volunteers come to try and persuade them to leave the station and come to the center, so that their needs may be cared for, but they often refuse, stubborn in their belief that their families are returning for them. So they wait hopefully, searching for their families each time people get off the train. Many in fact die there, waiting. The Calcutta police often place them back on the train, passing them down the line so they’ll be some other city’s problem.

My daughter is right: We are blessed to live in a country where we’re not so poor that we’d feel compelled to abandon our parents. But we DO have the opportunity, as part of our Christian Service Initiative, to minister to elderly who feel alone, who crave for attention, who need someone to spend time with them. Perhaps that’s what God is calling you to do this year.

Look, I understand—all of you live crazy, busy lives. When you’re taking a demanding academic load, doing homework, playing sports, involved in clubs, rehearsing for a theater production, applying for college and all the other things you do, it can often feel like the Christian service piece is just another burdensome requirement that makes your lives even crazier—another thing to cross off your list. But I encourage you to go beyond that kind of minimalist position. Since you have to do it, throw yourself into it. Invest yourself into the lives of the people you meet, give them your attention, use it as a chance to make a difference in someone’s life.

“When did I see you hungry, or thirsty, or imprisoned, Lord?” we may ask Jesus when we come face to face with him one day. " I tell you solemnly", Jesus will tell us, “what you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did unto me.”

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