To listen to today’s homily, click the links above.
It is interesting to me that when there is a debate about helping other people, especially from other countries, there is always mentioned that we should be helping those who live in our own country. All of a sudden, the homeless in the United States are on everyone’s mind. How can we help other countries, when we have so many poor people here?
It is interesting because we have always had the poor. It is not as if suddenly homeless have been appearing on our streets. It is also interesting because those poor who do receive assistance are often insulted by the very same people not wanting to help foreigners. Why can’t these people get a job? Why do they spend their money on this or that? We don’t help foreigners because of the people who need help here. And we insult the people who need help here so that we do not have to give them anything either.
Today’s readings do not mean that we have to choose. It is not just about helping our own. It is not just about helping the stranger and the foreigner. It is about that generous spirit that helps both. “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.” It is not an either-or; it is a both-and. If we must choose, we choose both.
This part of Isaiah happens at the return from exile. As can happen over a few hundred years, people who were exiled and people who stayed were no longer known by one another. And so the reminder about the foreigners, and the natives, was quite important. Giving to the poor, to the oppressed, the homeless, was indeed needed. And the hearts of all needed to be changed to make this happen.
We live in an age right now where we seem more divided than ever. It is as if people must be placed into categories. It proved interesting to me during the election and since. When I criticized a policy I believed to be wrong, people assumed they knew what team I was on, what team I was rooting to win. You see, it has become all about winning and losing, and not as much about right and wrong.
There is an urgent need for another way. We need to stop viewing people as a threat — but rather as persons made in the image and likeness of God. We need to stop blaming the poor for being poor. Rather, we need to see the poor Christ in them. We need to stop insulting one another. We need to stop yelling at one another. We need to stop second guessing all of the motives of the people with whom we live.
Because these readings remind us to care for those we know and those we don’t. We need to care for all people who are in need. There are not conditions on which homeless, which hungry, which oppressed and which naked are to be helped. All must be helped to receive what they deserve as human beings. And when it comes to a choice, we should not choose native or foreigner, we should choose Christ.