“Is this not the fast I choose: To share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless man in to your home; when you see the naked to cover them and hide not your face from the outcast.” Isaiah 58:7
Once again, the Season of Lent is upon us and as people of faith we are called into deeper relationship with God and our neighbor. Prayer, penance and almsgiving are the three pillars of this season. Sadly, too many of us get stuck on penance and giving up meat or sweets and ignore the kind of orientation Isaiah proclaims as the true fast pleasing to God: feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and clothing the naked—standing with the marginalized and poor.
The Dubuque Rescue Mission is all about the kind of fast Isaiah is proclaiming—and not just during the 40 days of Lent. Feeding some 200 people a day; housing nearly 60 men each night; and giving clothing to those without proper protection from the weather. Day in and day out, 365 a year we house, feed, and clothe our brothers and sisters in need—welcoming them to rest, nourish, and pray themselves back to health. Sitting with them and listening to their stories of loss, betrayal, and abuse—believing that there is no force in the world better able to alter anything from its course than love. We share the conviction that we love because we were first loved by a God who couldn’t stand to see Her children separated from the glory given from the creation of the world.
God so delights in us even when we fail so miserably and make choices that are destructive to self and loved ones. Yet, the “no matter whatness” of God will always be there: No matter what you have done, call out to God and God will forgive you; No matter what has happened to you, God can restore you to wholeness; No matter what your burden is, God will help you carry it. I have to continually remind the men of God’s “no matter whatness” – heck, I have to continually remind myself of this, too. The world we live in has smashed us up good. So many of us are deeply wounded and comprehending a God who delights in us is, at times, an enormous leap. Still, we keep practicing seeing the “original blessedness” of each man—reminding them that Jesus stands with them in their brokenness and so do we.
Mother Teresa diagnosed the world’s ills in this way: we’ve just “forgotten that we belong to each other.” May Lent bring us closer to each other and thereby closer to the God who delights in all of Her children, no matter what we have done.
Peace. Rick Mihm