Have you ever felt like Jesus is asking you to give more than you have? I have felt that way a lot throughout my first week in the Bronx. The first official day they sat us down and said, “You are here to serve, to serve our babies, who far to often have been given up on. If you cannot with 100% certainty commit to giving this full year of service, then I want you to leave right now.”
That was when it became real. In that moment Jesus pulled me out of my inward selfishness. In the days prior, I found myself overwhelmed by the noise, the smells, the amount of people. I was honestly calculating up every reason I had to just go home. But when I heard our director uphold that deep call to serve these kids, I quickly remembered why I was here.
Flash back to 2019, standing in the middle of Times Square, when God said I want you here. Several months later, I found out about Seton and I noticed that their mission was the proper response to that call. I wanted to be there for those kids. I wanted to love them and uphold their dignity. When I got caught up in my own discomfort, Jesus came right into my selfish mess, picked up every piece with gentle care, and asked me over and over: “Do you love me more than these? Do you love me more than your own comforts? Then tend my sheep.”
It sounds nice, but it’s hard in reality! Packing my life into two suitcases and leaving home behind is hard. Moving to the Bronx site unseen is hard. But I don’t want to walk away because it’s too hard. I don’t want to be confident in myself; I want to be confident in Him. Confident that if I surrender it all, He will work right through me. Before I go any further, I would like to tell you a story to take this thought a little deeper.
I was on the train the other day and a man stumbled in and began to cry out, “Please help me!” His feet were emaciated, his clothes torn, beard overgrown, snot dripping down his face. I couldn’t even look at him, but I look up, and he’s standing right in front of my face, holding onto the same pole, just looking at me. My only thought was “Where is your mother?”
Another man sitting down in front of me pulled a dollar out from his pocket and handed it to the man in need. But the man sitting there did not even look at the man in need; instead, he glared at me, looking at my Jesus shirt as though to mock me, saying “Some Christian you are?” I hope that’s not what he was actually thinking, but the thought still lingered in my head. I thought to myself, I had nothing to give but love and a prayer. Even if I had a dollar, what would that have done? The condition of this poor man could very well represent the soul of New York, and no amount of money, no amount of food can solve that problem. So, instead, we bury it, even when we see it before our very eyes and smell in it’s breath a deep infection that modern medicine can’t cure. And again and again whether rich or poor people walk away empty. They go home wondering who they are, what’s their purpose and if anybody really cares. It’s overwhelming to see the amount of poverty both spiritual and physical. It’s overwhelming because far too often we only look at what we have, rather then what God has. We find ourselves in the shoes of the disciples looking out over a crowd of 5000, and Jesus looks at us and says, “How can we feed them?”
In our hearts we want to answer that call, but looking at the lack of money and food, we start to believe that God is setting us up for failure. In answering our fear, Jesus turns our attention to a small boy, a small boy with a wicker basket holding 5 loaves and 2 fish, a small boy who has followed Christ to the shores of Galilee because he hoped for something more. Are you gonna look at him and tell him he needs to go home? Are you going to make him bear the disappointment by telling him that Christ can’t feed us all? Or are you going to invite him to give what little he has to Christ? We know how the story ends, how they were fed, and how there were abundant leftovers. God still desires to feed us like that: abundantly. There are still millions out here hungering for more. The sheep need a shepherd, Christ is asking you to feed His flock.
For this to happen we have to start with trust. Christ could have made bread fall from the sky just as easily, but He chose to multiply what one small boy already had. He chose to call his disciples and this small child into an even deeper trust. Here in New York, and for all my days to come, wherever I may be, I hope to model that trust. Trusting that by simply showing up and giving all I have, no matter how little it may be, God is going to do the rest. Because the reality is that the world’s greatest hunger can only be satisfied with love. We could feed the whole world or let the world starve, but the body will no longer hunger for bread when they hit the grave. When the body is laid to rest the soul still hungers for a love it never recieved. Which takes me back to my initial thought towards the man on the train: “Where is your mother?” Maybe that question is not asking about biological parentage, but rather where is the person capable of reflecting the unconditional love of God? Where is the love you deserve because of your inherent dignity? Where is the love given freely? A love that would dare to kiss even the wounds that fester?
The answer is you. It is you. You have been called to empty yourself completely. Today and everyday you have the freedom to chose to open yourself completely to Christ. To be like Mary, and chose to bear the fruits of Christ’s labor of love.