Light Breaking Forth
“This rather is the fasting that I wish, “Sharing your bread with the hungry… clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth… and your wound shall quickly be healed.” -Isaiah 58:6-8
Thank God that it’s Lent again. I’ve already gotten multiple reminders to look more at Jesus and others, and less at myself, and that is really delightful and helpful—the way it’s meant to be. The Holy Spirit seems to be calling (at least to me), “Get busy loving!” I had a powerful experience of “light breaking forth” through almsgiving this past fall, in particular through serving refugees at our front door, which reminds me of what God can do if I “get busy loving.”
For years here at Our Lady Queen of Angels Convent, we have served the homeless at our front door. As Sr. Mae mentioned in a recent reflection, it has been typical on Wednesday afternoons for about twenty people, especially homeless men, to stop by our front door for clothes, shoes, a sandwich and a cup of coffee. In mid-October, the “usual” 20 people in line had grown to 60, with lots of refugees from Venezuela standing amidst the homeless we’ve come to know so well. The next week the line was 100-people long, and we needed to make two huge urns of coffee and five times the number of sandwiches. In November, the line outside of our convent on Wednesday afternoons reached over 200 people. It was already starting to form at 7 a.m. when one of our friar priests would arrive to celebrate Mass at the convent. Normally on Wednesdays, two sisters would serve at the door, but in November and December we needed about four sisters and at least four volunteers to keep up with all the people, and we extended the door hours. Some people would be familiar with our community’s huge “Thanksgiving turkey give-outs”—it felt like a “turkey give-out” every single week!
Like the other sisters I live with, I will not easily forget how God provided for all of his beloved children who came to us on those Wednesday afternoons. Nor will I forget the way it felt—overwhelming but also full of light. How beautiful it was to see God’s love for the poor in the hundreds of donations of brand-new coats and boots piled high in our front hallway. We gave away everything we had until there was nothing left to give… and then we did it all over again the next week.
One of my favorite moments was with three Venezuelan men. We had run out of the boots one Wednesday when they were in line, so they came back over the weekend. That second time they came back, I scoured our clothing pantry and found boots for two of the men, but we just did not have the third man’s size, or even the next closest size, bigger or smaller. I came back out and apologized to the man and said, “You have to pray we get more boots. We don’t have any more, and we need more donations.” He responded right away, “Sí,” and bowed his head. I said, “Now?” He said, “Sí, ahora.” So, we did. We prayed right there on the front steps. I didn’t know exactly what to say in Spanish, so all I could think of was, “Señor, botas por favor, para este hombre. Si es posíble, rapido.” (“Lord, boots please, for this man. If it’s possible, quickly.”) Then I went to look in the pantry one last time. Miraculously, on a shelf in a different part of the clothing pantry than where the shoes are kept, I found one pair of boots that I hadn’t seen before. They were exactly his size. That man left thanking God over and over and over. Someone’s almsgiving helped that man get steel-toed boots and probably a job. Another day as I tucked some toiletries in a woman’s bag, I heard the man next to her say in Spanish, “They have good hearts here.” That moved me. Really, God has a good heart and it’s overflowing out of our front door.
Jesus, help us turn our eyes to You, more and more. Make our hearts like Yours.
Sr. Josephine, CFR