The Homeless Man & The Body of Christ

Homeless girl sleeping on a bench in the night mysterious atmosphere

The other morning, I took our dog on our usual walk down the street and around the park. While in the park, we came across an older lady from our church who I’ve seen around town from time to time, collecting and bagging up aluminum cans and plastic bottles. She was at it again that morning in the park, pulling a couple of bottles out of one of the trash cans and putting them into the bag she was carrying.

From time to time in the past, when I had seen her doing this, I had briefly wondered why she did it – it never seemed like she needed to try to recycle them for the money, but I didn’t know, and I didn’t ask. The other morning when I saw her doing it again, though, it made me wonder…

Perhaps she was collecting the cans and bottles because she looked at it as her “little thing” to do and to contribute to make the world around us a better place, as part of her role in humanity, in God’s family, and in the Body of Christ. Perhaps with each can or bottle came a little quiet prayer. But at least with each one came one less in a landfill, and one more in the stream of recycling.

In the texts for Mass this weekend, our Gospel still has us in the heart of the “Bread of Life Discourse” and our First Reading still supports that. In the Entrance Antiphon and the Collect, though, we hear reminders of God as Father, and reminding us – and God – of His Covenant.

While we hear Jesus continue to teach us of Himself as the Bread of Life and reflect upon that, I think it’s also helpful to start to turn our minds towards what it means to be within that Body, as part of it. After all, at our Baptism we do enter into that Body and become a part of it.

In the Entrance Antiphon, we hear, “Look to your covenant, O Lord, and forget not the life of your poor ones forever.” In the Collect, we hear, “taught by the Holy Spirit, we dare to call [you] Father… bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughters, that we may inherit to enter into the inheritance which you have promised.”

Those whispers of the Father, of Covenant, of inheritance bring us right back to the Gospel and the Bread of Life.

This week in the Gospel, those around Jesus are murmuring. By next week, they will be openly arguing about this teaching. The following week, they will be walking away, saying that the teaching is too hard.

If faith enables us to believe in Jesus as the true Bread of Life, come down from Heaven, then we can understand that God, in His covenant with us, has gone beyond providing the food needed for our earthly journey, to also providing the food needed for our spiritual and heavenly journey.

Jesus in the Most Holy Eucharist is that food. But approaching and receiving that food in the Mass follows the Eucharistic Prayer, in which our offerings and all of the sacrifices of our lives are joined together. Our sacrifices join with Christ’s on the altar, given to the Father, and returned to us as Jesus himself, our spiritual food.

What are my sacrifices? What do I do in my daily life that becomes my participation in the Body of Christ, that is brought to the altar and offered in that highest sacrifice? For the lady from our church, perhaps it is that daily sacrifice of walking around town, saving the recyclables from the landfill. For you, it might be offering some time with a friend who is lonely, or taking some food to a food pantry, or saying an extra prayer each hour of the day for someone who has no one praying for them. The variety of sacrifices we can bring to the Body are almost endless. But it’s important that each of us, as parts of the Body, take our share in its work.

The night before I was walking the dog, I stopped by our church for a meeting. When I was leaving, it was dark, but I noticed a homeless man laying along one side of the outside of the building. I hesitated, thinking that perhaps I should approach him, ask if he was okay, or see if there was anything that I could do to help him.

But I didn’t. Part of me was worried he might be sleeping, and perhaps I’d startle him. Maybe he’d feel threatened, or embarrassed. Maybe it could be dangerous. The short ending of the story is that I didn’t do anything. I passed by, and left him laying there. In hindsight, I regret my decision. I see this as one of those things that “I have failed to do.” I will ask for forgiveness of the community, of the Body of Christ, at the start of Mass this weekend. And I will say a quiet prayer for that homeless man, that perhaps someone else comes along who is able to help him in a way that he needs.

That man will remain for me a reminder of the role I have as an intentional disciple if I wish to follow Jesus and be an active, useful part of His Body. Next time, I hope I have the grace and the courage to do something in that situation. After all, God in His wonderful Covenant provides for me. As part of Christ’s body, it is only right that I return that to my brothers and sisters in the world. May God give me this grace. May God give us this grace.

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