Monday, June 29, 2009

Those less fortunate

I'm staying in Chicago this week, and this morning, I got up around 6:30 am to take a stroll around the area. The Starbucks I discovered seemed a wonderful place to grab breakfast before I headed back to my room to get ready for the day. As I approached the door, a man standing outside asked me something about the homeless. Being accustomed to saying no to anyone standing on the street (especially near store doors), I immediately said, "No thank you" without even knowing what he asked. As I opened the door, he said, "a sandwich would be mighty nice."

That's when it hit me. It wasn't until then that I actually chose to see him this time. As I entered the door, I glanced back at a man with a dirty trash bag ripped down the side enough to see an old sleeping bag. He was holding a cup of coffee (likely from a kind soul that had entered before me).

I entered the shop and stood in line, and as I stood there, I thought, how dare I not spend a few dollars to help him out. Here I am walking to a Starbucks for breakfast (when breakfast is offered to me free back at the dorm), and I can't even give him something to eat? Wouldn't those few dollars be much better spent helping someone who is struggling than anything else I planned to spend it on? Thankfully, by the time I heard "next" I had decided to get him whatever I was getting myself, he deserved nothing less than what I was feeding myself (if not more). When I handed him the small amount for breakfast, he voiced that he was "mighty thankful" and told me to have a good day. May God bless that man today and always.

As I contemplated on the walk back to my room, I thought of how many other times I pass someone like him and keep walking. It's not like he was asking me to solve all his problems, he just asked for something to eat. How dare I consider feeding myself while he is hungry. So many times, we think someone else will do it. Today, standing in line, I thought, "who else is going to do it? I'm a youth minister, and I'm contemplating whether or not to help him."

Today, I challenge myself and anyone else reading this to help those around you. Put non-perishable food items in your trunk for the times you'll see some who needs help. Keep an extra blanket in your car to help keep him a little warmer each night as he lays on the street to sleep. It doesn't matter how they got there! The fact is they are there, and they need our help.

May God speak to our hearts when we see his children in need . . . and may we be willing to hear Him.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Corpus Christi

Hebrews 9:11-15

Brothers and sisters:
When Christ came as high priest
of the good things that have come to be,
passing through the greater and more perfect tabernacle
not made by hands, that is, not belonging to this creation,
he entered once for all into the sanctuary,
not with the blood of goats and calves
but with his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.
For if the blood of goats and bulls
and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes
can sanctify those who are defiled
so that their flesh is cleansed,
how much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God,
cleanse our consciences from dead works
to worship the living God.

For this reason he is mediator of a new covenant:
since a death has taken place for deliverance
from transgressions under the first covenant,
those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.

Today is the Feast of Corpus Christi (the Body of Christ). And as I listened to this, the second reading of today's Mass, I felt renewed by the new covenant. What stuck out to me the most this time around, was: "how much more will the blood of Christ . . . cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God." Think about that. What are those dead works that must be cleansed from our conscience in order to worship the living God? Today, those dead works were my own sins. Sins I must allow Christ's blood to wash from my conscience, in order that I might fully follow God.

As I contemplated leaving those sins behind, I thought a lesson from this past semester. My youth group and I journeyed to heaven together. Our class topics were about having "Jesus as the Compass" of our lives, serving others, praying, evangelizing to our friends and family, and other things that lead us to Heaven. At the end of the year, many of the kids said their favorite topic was "the suitcase one". The "suitcase one" was a class on sin. In our skit, the girl was trying to take multiple enormous suitcases through security check, onto her plane. She was faced with the decision to either leave those suitcases behind (that she just didn't think she could let go of) or not get on the plane. Our discussion following the skit compared those suitcases to the sins we carry around in our lives. We can accumulate those suitcases by the picking them up in the first place (committing the sin) and by keeping them with us (not asking for forgiveness, not forgiving ourselves, and holding on to them).

At the end of our classes, I asked the kids to write on a piece of paper what they needed to leave behind in order to get on that plane, to follow Christ, to go to Heaven. I took the enormous suitcase (it was HUGE) and laid it open in the front of the room, with a crucifix inside. I challenged the kids to let go of those sins that they needed to eliminate or let go of in their lives. As music was played, I asked that when the kids were ready, that they individually went to place their paper in the suitcase, and say "God, it's me __________, and I'm letting ___________ go and giving it to you."

As I reflect today on what I must leave behind, what "dead works" I need to be cleansed of, I feel renewed by the blood of the new covenant, Christ's blood. I pray that my past sins may truly be dead works. It is through the shedding of His blood that we are cleansed of our sins. And praise the Lord for that!

Today's challenge: Allow my conscience to be cleansed of my dead works so that I may fully worship My Lord!

Happy Feast of Corpus Christi! :D