Monday, the Gospel reading was Matthew 25: 31-46, the famous judgment scene where the nations are judged on how they treat the least of God’s people. It’s played a central part in my spirituality for many years.
Yesterday morning as I read a commentary, I was reminded that Jesus speaks of direct contact with those in need – feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the imprisoned, sheltering the stranger. It’s direct service.
Last night as I met with my base community and we reflected on the Gospel, I was frustrated when one member – who talks a lot – was insisting on speaking a word to someone in need or someone whose life needed straightening out because of alcoholism or something similar. I spoke up forcefully that the Gospel is talking about direct presence to those in need, not just a word. We need to accompany people and not just tell them some thing’s wrong with their life. We also need to be directly in contact with those in need, sharing their sufferings. Others agreed with me and as I left someone said to me, “Presence, it is important.”
And so I took it to heart this morning. For the past month I haven’t made it to the kindergarten in the Santa Rosa neighborhood Colonia Divina Providencia, where I used to go once or twice a week. Part of this has been due to responsibilities at Cáritas; part due to dealing with the emotional baggage of the robbery. But I went this morning. And what a joy it was.
The teacher, Matilde, greeted me with a hug and many of the kids remembered me. Serving them their snack and then playing with them outside renewed my spirit, even as I noticed the new kids who were very shy and laid back. Some warmed up, especially when I helped the kids do the monkey bars or let them pat my bald head – “Pelón” – “baldy” – they love to say.
After that I went to the Comedor de Niños in the diocesan offices, to help with the noon meal for poor kids. These include some older kids who are quite challenging, but it was worth it.
I will have to try to fit these two activities into my schedule as well as find a way to get to the jail every once in a while. It’s a way to be present to those most in need in very simple ways.
In a real way my work in the Dulce Nombre parish is another way to do this. Last Friday and Saturday I coordinated a workshop on Saint Paul, using materials from the UCA, the Jesuit University in El Salvador. Several groups led some sessions, though I had four to lead. But it was a good experience just to share with them. It was well worth the time spent there.
I look forward to more opportunities to help in the formation of pastoral workers here. It’s a challenge since I have to think of ways that will speak to them, most of them with six years of education or less. But this helps me to learn the material better – as well as seek to understand how it relates to their lives and to mind. It’s a process of making theology and faith alive for them – and, most of all, for me.