Psalm 45:10-11, 13-15

Listen to me, O royal daughter; take heart to what I say. Forget your people and your homeland far away. For your royal husband delights in your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. [...] The bride, a princess, waits within her chambers, dressed in a gown woven with gold. In her beautiful robes, she is led to the king, accompanied by her bridesmaids. What a joyful, enthusiastic procession as they enter the king's palace!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Do We Know the Poor?

an excerpt from Mother Teresa's Heart of Joy: The Transforming Power of Self-Giving

A few weeks before my trip to the United States, someone came to our house by night and said, "There is a Hindu family with eight children, and they have gone several days without eating." I took a bit of rice and went immediately to their assistance. The mother took the rice from my hands, distributed it into two equal servings, and went out immediately.

When she came back I asked, "Where have you been? What have you been doing?" "They are hungry too," she answered. Right next to them lives a Muslim family with the same number of children. The Hindu mother knew they had been out of food for several days. She did what Jesus does: she broke bread. She broke her love and shared it with her neighbors.

I cannot describe to you the faces of those youngsters. When I went it, I knew they were suffering. I could see their little faces. I could see their eyes shining because of hunger. When I left, their eyes were shining with joy because both the mother and children were able to share their love with others. What impressed me most in that instance was that the woman knew. Do we know our poor people? Do we know the poor in our house, in our family? Perhaps they are not hungry for a piece of bread. Perhaps our children, husband, wife, are not hungry, or naked, or dispossessed, but are you sure there is no one there who feels unwanted, deprived of affectation? Where is your elderly father or mother?

One day I visited a house where our sisters shelter the aged. This is one of the nicest houses in England, filled with beautiful and precious things, yet there was not one smile on the faces of those people. All of them were looking toward the door. I asked the sister in charge, "Why are they like that? Why can you not see a smile on their faces?" (I am accustomed to seeing smiles on people's faces. I think a smile generates a smile, just as love generates love.)

The sister answered, "The same thing happens every day. They are always waiting for someone to come and visit them. Loneliness eats them up, and day after day they do not stop looking. Nobody comes." Abandonment is an awful poverty.
On one of our nightly walks through London, I discovered a teenage boy, with long, well-groomed hair. He was sitting, thinking. I said to him, "You shouldn't be here at this time. You should be with your parents. This is not a proper place for you to be at this time and on such a cold night." He stared at me and said, "My mother doesn't want me because I have long hair."

There was no other reason. A young man, a mere teenager, rejected by his own people, by his own mother! I reflected for an instant. "Maybe his mother is concerned about the hungry people in India, in Africa, or in the third world. Maybe she desires to meet the needs of all except her son. She doesn't know that poverty, hunger, exists in her own house. It is she who provokes such hunger."

That's why I ask: "Do we know our poor people? Do we know how poor we ourselves are?"

A nation that destroys the life of an unborn child, who has been created for living and loving, who has been created in the image of God, is in a tremendous poverty. For a child to be destroyed because of selfishness of those who fear they may not be able to feed one more child, fear they may not be able to educate one more child and so decide that the child has to die--that's poverty.


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