From the Catholic Liturgy for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Oct. 29, 2017. Exodus 20_22-26 and Matthew 22:34-40. Serving God in our Neighbor. In the Book of Exodus, which was our first reading today, we have the solid assurance of Sacred Scripture that God hears the cry of the poor. The sufferings and struggles of those who seek basic justice and the satisfying of their human needs does not go unnoticed by God. But the question begs to be asked: how does our God meet these needs? The Pierced Risen Heart of Jesus has such compassion on their plight, but how can he do anything about it from the glory of Heaven? Well, I am sure we all know the answer…the privilege and the duty of relieving the suffering of the poor and needy falls to us, his disciples, we who form the Mystical Body of Christ continuing his mission on planet Earth. As one of the saints put it:
Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes through which he looks with compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good.
Yours are the hands through which he relieves suffering.
Yours is the smile through which he brings joy and hope.
You are his body.
The Catholic Church has taken this responsibility and privilege of being Christ to the poor so seriously over the past 2,000 years that we are, and have been for most of our history, the largest charitable organization on the planet. Even in Mid-eastern and Asian countries where we Catholics make up only 1-5% of the population, we carry out 98% of the charitable works. We can’t help it…that’s just who we are!
Serving Jesus in the poor does not require special talents or education. Neither does it require wealth or social influence. All you need to have is a personal response to the Great Commandment that we heard in today’s Gospel: to show your love for the God whom you CANNOT see, through loving service to your neighbor, whom you CAN see.
One awesome and beautiful way to put the Great Commandment into practice is the Society of St. Vincent de Paul whose members are known as Vincentians. You are probably familiar with the downtown San Rafael dining room that bears the same name, but you might not know that the dining room is just one visible sign of a much larger presence of Vincentians serving the poor here in Marin. The vast majority of the works of mercy done by Vincentians are done quietly, without fanfare or attention, by ordinary everyday parishioners.
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international Catholic association that is over 180 years old. It was started in Parish in 1833 by Blessed Frederic Ozanam, and came to San Francisco in 1860. St. Sebastian’s is very blessed to have had a parish Conference of Vincentians who have been continuously serving Jesus-in-the-poor for over 40 years. There are presently about 10 of your fellow parishioners who are Vincentians, who meet together every month and take turns going out every week in pairs to give direct personal service to the poor. But they need of more members because sadly, the number of those in true need is expanding, not lessening, especially with the new social category of the under-employed. Without new members, the poor who live within our parish boundaries run the risk of not having their material and spiritual needs met!
Our parish has always been extremely generous in supporting the good works of the Society through financial contributions and food donations. Thanks to all of you, we have a well-stocked pantry down in the back of the hall. And I confident that this generosity will continue as the number of the poor continues to grow. But if some of you have a desire for something more, to make the gift of YOURSELF along with the gift of your prayers, donations and food, then think about joining the Society. You can be an instrument of charity right here in your own parish and make a difference in someone’s life.