There is nothing more basic then to serve those who need help. Christ speaks about this in the Gospel passages on more than one occasion and I will submit that it is at the heart of the Gospel to love ones neighbor as oneself.
In the Wednesday edition of the Southbridge Evening News there was a story about the Food Share Food Pantry here in Southbridge and how the food is running low. This food pantry serves our neighbors and they need our help. Scripture tells us that to those who have been given much, much will be required. It is time to step up and help out.
This past weekend, my church was host to Fr. Justin Matthews of a new Orthodox Service agency called FOCUS North America. FOCUS is an acronym for Fellowship of Orthodox Christians United to Serve. FOCUS seeks to serve those in need, by providing aid through partner programs, like the Community Meal we serve each month at St. Michael’s.
Poverty robs the poor of their human dignity. Our neighbor’s poverty here at home is a moral and social crisis that we have the responsibility to address. According to the most recent statistics, 15% of our neighbors in Southbridge live below the Federal Poverty Limit. These are not street homeless but the working poor. Not in some far off city, but right here in our town and in our neighborhoods. These are our neighbors.
Faced with low wages and rising food, housing, utility, and health care costs, thousands of children go to bed hungry each night, some of those right here in our own town. In a land where resources as so plentiful, it is unacceptable that so many children, adults, and senior citizens, our most vulnerable population, experience such staggering need and insecurity.
Restoring their dignity takes more than handouts. Together we are working to restore these “living icons” one at a time. As Christians we are called to see Jesus in each person we come in contact with. We are to see Jesus in the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the sick, as well as the rich and well off. We are, all of us, created in the image and likeness of God and all of us are “living icons” of the Father here on Earth.
Mother Maria Skobtsova also known as St. Maria of Paris said, “There is no doubt that the Christian is called to social work,” she said, “called to organize a better life for the workers, to provide for the old, to build hospitals, care for the children, fight against exploitation, injustice, want, lawlessness.” She went on to say that this kind of Christian social work can only be based on love for our neighbors, not for career or material advancement, reminding us that we will be held accountable in the Last Judgment for our treatment of the hungry, imprisoned, naked and sick.
There is a great need. There is a great need no further away then your next door neighbor. We need to serve those in need because Christ commanded us too, but also because it is the right thing to do.
We are about to enter the holiday season when we will celebrate all that we have been given. How about giving to those who will be unable to celebrate right here in our own community. Many are called but few are chosen. Time to step up and help out.
Originally published in the October 30, 2010 edition of the Southbridge Evening News