Monday, February 23, 2015

First Monday of Lent: Encountering Hope and Joy in the Poor

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothe me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.” Mt. 25:35-36,40

I had the privilege of serving for Casa Building through Christus Ministries this weekend. We traveled down to Tijuana to put the finishing touches on a house Christus has been working on for the Sanchez Marquez family. As our van drove through the neighborhood towards the community center, our mood was a mixture of disbelief, astonishment, and somberness from the poor living conditions we were witnessing. However to my surprise, we arrived with a large community eagerly awaiting to shower us with their beaming faces and colorful “Bienvenidos!” signs. Children ran to hug our legs, and the little girl whose house we were working on timidly gifted Fr. Tri with a picture she drew. The community’s warm and cheerful welcome did not speak of hopelessness or despair but rather hope and joy.

We spent the day painting the house and moved beds, kitchen appliances, and furniture in so that the Sanchez Marquez family could begin living in it that afternoon. Truly, words cannot fully describe the beautiful moment when we unveiled and presented their house to them. The kids gleefully dashed to their rooms. The little boy was in such disbelief that the room was really his that he had to ask his grandparents for confirmation. Then he jumped on the bed and did the snow-angel motion so as to express unreserved happiness. The wife was in tears of joy and gratitude and soon after many of us were as well. The husband and wife abundantly thanked all those involved because it was not only a house that had been built but also hope for their family and the larger community.

Another meaningful experience was visiting a shelter where deported migrant men stayed to begin rebuilding their lives. We had dinner with them and heard many of their stories. Despite cases of families being torn apart and experiences of injustice, a common theme was not so much a feeling of anger or resentment but of hope and deep trust in God. One of the men profoundly remarked, “Each morning, God renews His mercy.”

The poor and marginalized have much to teach us. In our world of abundance, there is rarely any of our basic needs that are unmet. Even things beyond basic needs are easily satisfied. There is then a tendency for our sense of gratitude to become dull. Those like the Sanchez Marquez family who live(d) in a 10x10 shack, share a bed on the ground, and are at the mercy of the weather are sensitive to the gifts in their lives. They do not take anything for granted since anything can easily be taken away but live with gratitude through various people and ways God is present. They do not live with a sense of expectation that their future should be prosperous but with the hope that God’s gentle hand will always be guiding them. They do not live with anguish that circumstances have been cruel, but with the joy that comes from living in solidarity with one another. Indeed, we receive a glimpse of God’s kingdom ministering to the poor and marginalized.

Lord, help me to see with your eyes and love with your heart all my brothers and sisters especially those who have been marginalized.

Reflected by Michael Jamnongjit

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