Jesus in distressing disguise

    March 12, 2024

    God is our refuge and our strength,
    an ever-present help in distress.
    Therefore we fear not, though the earth be shaken
    and mountains plunge into the depths of the sea.
    The Lord of hosts is with us; our stronghold is the God of Jacob.

    These seem to be some of the most uncertain times ever, with turmoil across the globe, turmoil in the Church, turmoil in numerous faith groups, turmoil politically, turmoil socially, turmoil financially, turmoil at the border, turmoil in the courts — you get the picture. I never imagined nearly nine years ago that every aspect of society would be so tumultuous. Further, I struggle to comprehend how working for a Catholic Charities agency results in being at the center of so much turmoil.

    The Corporal Works of Mercy are a direct means of almsgiving during this Lenten season — a way to extend the love and mercy of Jesus Christ to others. The Gospel of Matthew (25:31-42) reminds us that when we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the homeless, visit the imprisoned, care for the sick and welcome the stranger, we serve Jesus, who is present in the least of our brothers and sisters. St. Teresa of Calcutta referred to the sick men, women and children that she and her order cared for as “Jesus in distressing disguise.” The two greatest commandments are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

    The only voice we need to hearken to is the voice of God, who created the heavens and the earth and all its inhabitants. His word is truly timeless and its instruction can be the light to our path in the most difficult and darkest of times. Our efforts at Catholic Charities are focused on following His commandments.

    In a world that desires to condemn efforts to help others through the corporal works of mercy, don’t fear to do the right thing. In a world that calls us to accept wrong as right, don’t be afraid to speak the truth. As we draw near to the end of our Lenten journey and anticipate the joy of the Easter Resurrection, cling to the hope that can only come from embracing that the Lord of hosts is truly with us in all that we do. Remember that God is our refuge and our strength, truly an ever-present help in distress.

    Deacon Gary Tester is President of Catholic Charities of Central Florida.

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