I use to say that too, that people weren’t victims, that they have control over the way their lives turn out. But, after spending many years working in low income housing communities, and hearing children discuss which gangs their daddies were in, which color bandana they wore, watching their daddies and brothers and uncles get shot and killed, I will never again say this. One little 8 year old boy cried on my shoulder and asked me to pray for his momma cause he found his little sister dead in the bed. He didn’t know that Jesus could help him too. He thought Jesus was just for those other people who didn’t live where he lived. He will grow up to be a man, maybe living in the same area, maybe with the same experiences as his father. Sometimes the trauma we experience, which I have no real understanding of, undeniably shapes our futures. Some can escape the damage, but for others, its nearly impossible. I learned an important lesson. I will hold my tongue before I speak. I will search for the pain behind another’s words and actions. I will love and accept, even if I don’t understand. I have not experienced much in my life, and chances are, neither have you.
He sends us to the poor in particular. The cup of water you give to the poor, to the sick, the way you lift a dying man, the way you feed a baby, the way in which you teach a child, the way you give medicine to a leper… your attitude and manners toward them – all this is God’s love in the world today. God still loves the world! I want this to be imprinted in your minds: God still loves through you and through me today. Let me see this love of God in your eyes, in your actions, in the way you move about. (Mother Teresa, 2016)
For mothers, fathers, teachers, medical professions, assembly line workers, (the list goes on and on) the cup of water you give is God’s love in the world today. It may be your encouragement, your respect, your kindness, a smile, preferring someone over yourself, the sharing of knowledge, the human touch, a loving embrace, the sacrifice of time or money. It is God’s love pouring from your cup, into the life of someone else.
When Jesus was dying on the cross He said, “I thirst” in John 19:28. What was he referring to as he hung there dying on the cross? Actual water? Maybe. The anguish of a sinful world? Probably that too. Is He still saying “I thirst?” Let’s take a look a scripture.
For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Matt 25: 40-45
Jesus is found in the faces of the sick, the dying, the lonely, the lost, the poor, the imprisoned. In third world countries, Jesus still thirst for food and water, for medicine, nutrition, for healing. Directly around you, the needs may appear in a different form, but are just as critical. He is thirsty for love, for human kindness, to be wanted. Jesus is thirsty for souls, for compassion, for devotion. We give Jesus a drink when we give another person that in which they need or desire. By caring for the unwanted, the unloved, the lonely, we are his love in action to people all around us.
I pray that we can all find it within ourselves to respect humanity, whether or not it deserves it, whether or not it has earned our love; all humanity is Jesus on Earth. That goes for Democrats and Republicans, poor and the rich, uneducated and the educated, the sinful and well (that’s all of us)… I am not better than you. You are not better than me. You do not know more than me. I do not know more than you. We are all living, breathing, creations of our Heavenly Father, surviving on what little information He shares with us. We each live one day at a time, and hope to help each other along the way to Heaven, where things are much easier.