Our son, a college student, is home for the holidays. As he is wont to do when at home, he goes out with old high school friends and he goes to the homeless shelter on Saturday mornings with his Dad. Every Saturday morning since he was three years old, my husband has brought him along to the local men’s emergency housing to meet the men there, have a devotional time with them and take them to breakfast.
Our son remembers that once there was a man who was just released from jail the night before and had no shoes. Another man hitch-hiked all the way from Alaska. Weekly, several of the men engage in the Bible reading and discussion as many of them were raised in Christian homes and a number of them voice heart-felt prayers to God as the Holy Spirit ministers to them. Others ramble on about their lives, while others try to squeeze money from them with a sob story.
Through the years, my husband and son have met a wide spectrum of men: old, young, sane, mentally-challenged, mild, angry, educated, and those with learning disabilities. They listened to all their stories. Father and son not only enter the homeless shelter on Saturday mornings, but many times, they are allowed to enter the hearts of men. On several occasions, the Word of God cuts through the surface, prayer opens their hearts and they remember hope in Christ.
Compassion and Mercy
When our son was in high school and on days when my husband was out of town, he would get up early on Saturday morning, go to the shelter by himself, lead a devotion, facilitate discussion, open prayer and take these grown men to breakfast as he and his Dad usually do. It never bothered him that the men responded to him differently than they did when his Dad was there. Why would a teen give up his only possible morning to sleep-in for these random men? Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta often said that welfare is for a purpose, whereas Christian love is for a person.
Service is an integral part of the Christian life because it is a part of a life of love. A Catholic engages in the corporal and spiritual works of mercy as an instrument of God’s love for others. It is a way of life, following in the way of Jesus. Compassion and mercy are at work and go beyond in recognizing that everyone is our brother and sister in Christ. Who else will show God’s love if not us, His children?
Tasting the Joy
As Christians called to love and serve one another, especially those in need, let us bring our children along as we serve. Our children not only witness Christian service, learn many skills themselves, encounter various people in the community and recognize each one’s dignity, but they also begin to experience the grace of the Holy Spirit as an instrument of love and come to taste the joy that comes from giving of oneself to others.
Last Saturday, father and son came home with more than stories, they had peppermint candy canes from the Christmas tree at the emergency housing.