For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.
Matthew 25: 35-36
How familiar we are with this Gospel, as it is at the core of our work at Catholic Charities. We have it in our mission statements, headlining our marketing materials and embedded in our orientations. We know of the needs in front of us and the importance of the tasks we are called to- feeding, clothing, visiting and welcoming.
Personally, I will admit that I have seen and prayed over this scripture passage so many times that I can fall into the trap of thinking I know it fully. I can be too quick to believe I have it covered in my daily work, and thus I miss out on the importance of going deeper to experience Jesus in those I serve. I get caught up in the doing and forget to be fully present. I need to remember that what I do is inherently tied up in “you did for me.” I need to intentionally focus on the importance that every person coming to me is unique, made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore shows a different facet of Him. These people are not just a part of the general bucket of the hungry, the thirsty, or the stranger. It is vital to recognize the distinctiveness of God in her or him and respond as I would to Jesus.
About a decade ago one of my staff shared with me her approach to value every person that came to her that has stayed with me. She felt that the assistance she was providing was simply a matter of her returning to them what was rightly theirs to begin with.
I know not all of our clients have the opportunity to get what is unequivocally theirs in this life, but we trust that God will give it to them at the appointed time. In the interim, we are blessed to get glimpses of this when we can assist them. May it inspire us to continue our mission with a personal approach of responding as we would to Jesus and fully living out the words that we prominently display across our agencies!
Michael Smith is Chief Program Officer at Catholic Charities Maine and a member of the CCUSA Management and Administration Steering Committee.
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