Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Feeding Christ

The beasties have been in religious education class at the Catholic Center for a couple of months now. H and I were both a bit apprehensive as we knew some of our theological perspectives might clash with what the kids learn. Thus we grilled them relentlessly after each class, and in true beastie form, they wouldn't tell us shit. Sometimes Umberto would regal us with stories of the horrible kid in his class who mouthed off to everyone. But that was about it. We let it go figuring if something that if something so theologically shocking came up, they'd likely talk to us about it anyway.

A couple of weeks ago the gospel reading was from Matthew 25:
Then the righteous will answer him and say,
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you,
or thirsty and give you drink? 
When did we see you a stranger and welcome you,
or naked and clothe you? 
When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?'
And the king will say to them in reply,
'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did
for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me.'

This is one of my favorite gospel passages and the one that has lead me, a rather (snort) liberal, socially progressive person, to the Church. We studies this in RICA, and the beasties learned about it in their classes as well.

Now I've been trying for years to convey to my children how lucky they are. How they have a duty to those who have less. How we must care about the poor, the sick, the desolate, etc. How we are obligated because we care to fight for social justice. And I tried desperately to steer them away from seeing this obligation as charity but rather as responsibility to ourselves because others are us. This is not always an easy thing to pass onto a child. This scripture captures all of that feeling. It implores us to care for others because those others ARE CHRIST. Not LIKE Christ but Christ HIMSELF. This is a big deal. It means that every time we turn our back on suffering we are turning our back on Christ., This is no pansy ass scripture either. This is tough. This about judgment. Christ took the suffering of the world seriously, and he expected his followers to do the same. And this is why I love Dorothy Day. She lived this scripture in a way that I likely never will.

Back to the beasties. At least a week after this reading, we are driving somewhere, when Camille asks me "Is it true if we feed the poor, we feed Jesus?" This comes out of left field. We were just riding in silence (blissfully) so for a second I am a bit flummoxed. "Yes." I answer immediately but I'm scrambling for how I'm going to convey to this to my eight year old. She's never shown interest in poverty before so it's an important moment.

"How does that work?" she asks. "Jesus isn't here."

"Well what Jesus was saying was that he is here. He's inside every poor person we meet. His spirit is there inside them. And it's inside us. Which is why when we see someone who needs food or clothes, we need to help them. It's why Mama and Daddy get angry when rich people keep too much for themselves."

I look back quickly and can see that Camille is pondering my words. Piper is listening too.

"Does this mean we should give our food to people who need it?" Piper asks.

"Well do we have extra food?" I ask her.

"Yup. Lots. We should give some of it to people who are hungry." she answers.

"Right and then we'll be feeding Jesus too." Camille pipes up.

The rest of the trip is spent planning what food we can give to the local food banks. And the next time we go to Walmart, Piper sees the Angel tree, and wants to pick out a little girl to buy some gifts for. Both girls decided to give some of their allowance to the Salvation Army. I hope this is only the beginning of a life spent fighting for the disadvantaged and also for giving, willing and with an open heart.

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