Homelessness and Matthew 25:35
A defining human quality is the ability to imagine what another person is going through, to have compassion for their suffering, and to want to relieve their pain. In many ways this is what Jesus inspired us to do. It is why His words in Matthew 25:35 and following are so compelling even now, 2,000 years after his life and death:
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”
The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
This charitable view is a foundational principle of Christianity, yet it is held in common by non-Christians as well. It is, in my view, a universal principle of human relationships: We must love one another and care for those in need.
Next Saturday, October 10 is Homelessness Day which all too briefly recognizes that being homeless is real, anguishing, and ongoing. Now more than ever, the need is great, for the economic carnage from the coronavirus and lockdowns have thrown thousands of Wisconsinites into a gauntlet of scavenging for a meal or a safe, dry place to sleep each night. For reasons too varied to describe in this short space, many good, hardworking, accomplished people find themselves out on the street, left to forage a living bereft of any substantial income or support. Some are able to get back on track: others are not.
We must help these brothers and sisters who have fallen on hard times and share what we have. When we help them, we help ourselves to be more compassionate, more forgiving, and more human. When we feel the pain of others, we feel the pain in ourselves. Standing close together absorbing each other’s heat keeps us all from freezing to death, physically and mentally.
Giving is an act of compassion and love – a universal language of the heart. Why shake off the world; rather, instead, seize and mold it into something good; so good that at the end it expresses the innermost goodness of the human being.
There is a mixture of quiet heroism and joy in uplifting the human spirit and improving matters. When on this path, we are creating a much richer world – for all of us.
PATRICK J. WOOD