It’s a horrible thought that the majority of the world live in poverty, struggling to find food and water to feed their families and loved ones, having no-where to live, no roof over their head. Yet here in seminary we live in comfort with more than enough food and drink, heating when it gets cold and no financial worries… It’s an easy life! Yet when time comes for a reckoning as predicted in today’s Gospel, will we be amongst the sheep or the goats, the sheep who go to eternal life or the goats who are sent to eternal damnation? Did we feed the hungry or give water to the thirsty? Did we welcome the stranger? Or care for the sick? Did we clothe those with no clothes?
In the seminary and in this country we are relatively shielded from suffering we can easily pretend it doesn’t exist. But if we care to look we see the signs of homelessness, we can see poverty on our streets. But are we brave enough to take a stand and do something about it?
A few years ago before I started seminary an appeal came into the church that volunteers were required to help distribute soup and sandwiches to the homeless people in the city centre on a Wednesday evening, I decided to volunteer and went down to help out. There were two young Christian men from one of the non-denominational churches in charge of distributing the food. I introduced myself and joined them. They were inspirational, they exuded the Christian ethos, they helped the homeless, they talked and shared out the food, always smiling always polite and joyful. On one occasion a couple of drunk homeless men started arguing and pretty soon the argument escalated and it became apparent that they were going to start fighting, I began to back off. It was at this point that one of the young fellows jumped right in between these two men who towered over him, talking gently to them and telling them to calm down, and it worked! He had such a good way with them that he diffused the whole situation. I was so impressed with the way he acted, and at the same time ashamed that I backed off. This was an extreme situation but it showed me how far I had to go, and how out of my depth I was.
It was a good experience working with the two young men, but it showed me that I am not really cut out for that particular kind of work. But this isn’t an excuse for me to do nothing, there are plenty of other ways in which we can help, we can give money to organisations who undertake charitable works. We can help in collecting clothes and food for homeless action and refugee centres. There is an organisation here in Birmingham that helps refugees coming from troubled parts of our world http://www.stchadssanctuary.com/ we can donate money here.
But the first thing we need to do is open our eyes, look around, see and acknowledge the needy because in them we will see Christ. Because when we truly see Christ in our brothers and sisters, helping them no longer becomes optional.