The homeless are still attempting to shelter-in-place on Skid Row. They cannot practice social distancing because they’re trapped in overcrowded tents. They don’t have plumbing to wash their hands. In fact, they don’t have water at all. Ms. Shirley Raines, the lady who was out in her car giving them hand sanitizer, vitamin C supplements, and sandwiches a few days ago, has been trying to find water bottles, but every store in Los Angeles is sold out due to hoarding. So, today, she bought 400 juice boxes to give them. She posted a brief video of these to Twitter as proof for her donors; I assume that she’s passing them out right now, or will soon.
Meanwhile, the outspoken devout Catholic pro-lifer R. R. Reno is re-posting his ghastly article from yesterday, complaining that it’s demonic that he can’t hold a dinner party during a pandemic. He’s been tarred and feathered from every corner on Twitter, from fellow Catholics to Rabbis to atheist commentators, but he’s holding firm. He insists that a fight to save lives is demonic, when it interferes with his right to live exactly as he pleases.
The Friendship Room in downtown Steubenville is still open to help the homeless and very poor; Molly McGovern is sheltering in place there instead of with her family. Late last night, a couple Molly knows well came to the door asking for breakfast for their four children– she answered, in her mask and gloves. Several homeless people came to get sandwiches out of the cooler she leaves stocked on the porch– but first, they carefully washed their hands at the new outdoor handwashing station that the Friendship Room installed on their porch. The handwashing station, the cooler, and the rest of the porch are sanitized daily by a local cleaning service that volunteered their service. They’re minimizing every chance of spreading the illness, while still not abandoning the poor, and they’ve promised to keep doing so.
Today, on their Facebook page, The Friendship Room was offering to connect their Facebook followers with lonely elderly people and children so that we could “adopt” them and send cards and gifts until the crisis is over. This is their solution to the fact that they cannot provide in-person friendship and compassion to the poor for a time, without risking spreading the disease.
Meanwhile, Dan Patrick, the lieutenant governor of Texas, who is an outspoken Christian and proud to call himself pro-life, suggested that elderly people should be willing to put their own lives in danger for the sake of the American economy: money over people. Another hit to the economy, he affirms, would be worse than dying. Not only elderly people die of COVID-19. And this is all beside the point since the economy has already cratered and not controlling the pandemic will make matters worse, but he’s adamant regardless.
Another place that serves the poor in Downtown Steubenville, the Urban Mission, is keeping its soup kitchen open but changing around to be in compliance with the shelter-in-place order. Instead of a place to sit down and eat, they’re offering hot meals to-go. And instead of coming in to their food pantry, hungry people can now drive through the parking lot and the food will be brought to them. They’re not abandoning the poor either.
Meanwhile, The Remnant, a publication that prides itself on traditional Catholicism, is lauding the lieutenant governor for sacrificing human lives for the sake of the economy and trying to make this sound like a Christian notion. They salute the president as well, for randomly deciding that coronavirus will be fired by Easter.
And meanwhile, heroic men and women all over the country are caring for the sick until they themselves succumb to the plague. Doctors, nurses, nurses’ aides, paramedics, the priests who come to comfort and anoint the dying, all are laying down their lives.
I’m not saying that all of these people doing heroic deeds for those who are in trouble are Christian. Some of their faiths I know, and some I don’t. But I think they’re doing a far better impression of Christ than His outspoken followers in the media and politics are doing. They’re living as the Gospel demands whether they realize that or not.
And, tragically, quite a few Christians are getting in front of keyboards and televisions cameras to advocate things that are the opposite of the Gospel.
Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.
And what is the will of the Father in Heaven? Those words Molly read to us a few days ago are still ringing in my ears:
Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking off every yoke?
Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry,
bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own flesh?
8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
And Christ Himself reiterated:
Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
I was raised in a particularly weird little faction of the Charismatic Renewal, and then ended up falling into Regnum Christi. I thought that being a follower of Christ had something to do with believing the right conspiracy theories, saying the right things, or belonging to the correct clique. The more I grow up, and learn, and ponder these mysteries– the more I pay attention to people a lot more exemplary than I am– I find that being a Christian is about loving Christ, and honoring Him in your neighbor.
I don’t know what’s happening or how bad things are going to get in the coming days and weeks– very bad, I think.
But I know that every human being has something less than one lifetime before meeting God face to face.
On that day, we will not be able to buy mercy with good deeds. But we will be stuck with the person we chose to become– not the creed we pretended to profess, but the real person we chose to become.
At this moment, we are staring down the barrel of our own mortality in a way that perhaps we haven’t before. And the masks are coming off. You can be someone who seeks God in people and tries to honor Him however you can, or at least not make things worse for Him. You can be Simon helping carry the cross, Veronica cleaning His face, Mary standing witness. Or, you can be a Judas who sacrifices people for money.
It’s time to ignore the talking heads and return to the Gospel. And I very much include myself in the former designation– I’m not the Gospel. I’m a deeply imperfect person. I am trying to repent of all the ways I fail. If you follow me, you’ll fall right into a ditch. Follow the Gospel.
I don’t know how much time any of us has left. But I know that the best time to begin is now.
Let’s all of us begin.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross.
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