Using an overused word I truly hate, I will say it anyway. What I am about to write will offend some, since I will be speaking ‘frankly.’
Christianity, of which Catholicism is its fullest expression, is truly put to the test when we come face to face with unattractive poverty, or when we are the unattractive poor person ourselves. Then, all the piety, and all the devotionals, get thrown to the wayside when the ‘rubber hits the road’ in a Good Samaritan test of our own personal Christian reality.
Unemployment, sinfulness, physical imperfection, addictions, and a whole slew of truly human crap, makes many of us extremely unattractive. This unattractiveness reveals our real family, and our real friends. For true charity, and I mean more than writing a check, overcomes the foibles of a poor man, a loser, a misfit, a miscreant, and a meathead. True charity, sees beyond the shabby apparel, the un-kept personal appearance, the personality faults, the historical errors, and the broken spirit of the poor person in front of them, and, disregarding the lack of personal benefit in this interaction, truly Incarnates the Good Samaritan for the downtrodden.
Then there’s the other side of the coin.
Try on long term unemployment sometime. Try on homelessness, a lack of family, a lack of friends, a lack of an experience of a loving God, a lack of health, a lack of money, a lack of companionship,a lack of moral support, and, to a certain degree, a lack of sanity. Then receive a whole lot of ‘we’ll pray for you,’ when you need work and bread, and you’ll experience the devil oven roasting your faith in the crucible of despair, doubt, anger, and fear. Receive out and out rejection from people who are blood relatives and/or ‘fun time buddies’ and you will feel the flagellum which tore apart our Lord prior to His Crucifixion.
For Christianity, Catholicism being its fullness, is not measured in Church attendance, or liturgical piety, or bible thumping, or ‘social work,’ or parish council leadership, if it is not accompanied with the Cross-born solidarity of the compassionate Good Samaritan.
This is where it gets interesting.
Encounter the ‘bum.’
Be the ‘bum.’
I mean no disrespect, but we need to feel the despair which permeates the soul of the truly rejected, and truly forgotten. Are despairing people, full of a lack of trust in Divine Providence, railing against God for day upon day of disappointment, inner torment, and outer disrespect received from others, still Christian (and/or Catholic) in spirit?
True spirituality is honest. It admits to despair, to weakness, and to a certain messiness when the human person, full of imperfections, meets the Perfect One. Authentic Spirituality is truly faithful even in its ugliest moments. The Old Testament, and the foibles of Abraham, Jacob, David, Jonah, and the people of Israel attest to this. The Apostles, prior to Pentecost, attest to this. If we’re honest, our own lives, even the hidden parts, attest to this.
For God is bigger than us…thankfully.
So, if you run into a mess of a person, expect God to be paying particular attention to your response. Likewise, when you are a mess, of which I am one now, God will certainly be paying attention to how you are treated, and to your imperfect, messy prayers.
Even the ones you are unaware of, which the Spirit offers in groans.