Tuesday, 2 February 2016



"I was naked and you clothed me,"  (Mtt. 25 36).
I was wretched in my nakedness and you relieved me from my misery.
Immediately I think of the homeless people who are exposed to the weather – with its biting cold for some and for others its fierce heat. Some have nothing to wrap around their bodies to protect them from snow, ice, and rain. Others who live in equatorial deserts need to be completely covered against the scorching sun and the harsh battering of sandstorms.

This Corporal Work of Mercy is about being sensitive to the needs, the feeling of the abjectly poor. And this was stated forcibly in the Book of Leviticus written several thousand years ago. Here the Lord God requires that,
"If you take someone's cloak in pledge, you will return it to him at sunset.   It is all the covering he has; it is all the covering he all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else will he sleep in?   If he appeals to me, I shall listen.   
Exodus 22.26.

The one with the cloak must first find this compassion in himself; be able to recognize how awful it must be to suffer what he’s going through; and then conclude, ‘If there’s any decency in me, any humanity in me, I must give him back his cloak…even though I would lose on the transaction.’

As far we are concerned, here and now, at any time anyone of us is liable to be approached by someone telling us he or she has no clothes, other than those being worn at the present moment– begging, pleading, for clothes.

God only knows when he last experienced wearing refreshing, clean clothes. Who could ever be comfortable living in stale, shabby, stinking garments? Think of the pain, the humiliation, of knowing people are uncomfortable about having you around …on the public transport, in shopping malls - even in church. The sheer misery of being despised, rejected, never respected!

With Christ-like compassion we must enter into the very soul of the one who needs clothing….needs far more than that ---a sense of personal wholesomeness that gives him the confidence to join the company of other human beings. Some deep soul-searching is needed on our part. Do I really want to help this or any other person? Why should I?

The easiest way to avoid ever becoming involved is to be so disagreeable as to give myself the reputation that it’s a waste of time approaching me! The very opposite to this is for me to offer friendship, show respect, be generous with my precious time. I must be prepared to dip into my pocket if I can’t put my hands on available clothes. I must be prepared to make a personal sacrifice and do this willingly, not resentfully, not grudgingly.

Jesus speaks to me now through His parable about the Last Judgement.  There as King, He claims. 
     "I was naked and you clothed me...Then the upright will say to Him in reply,  'Lord, when did we        see you naked and clothe you?  And the King will answer,  "In truth I tell you, in so far as you did     this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me."

This being so, Jesus will say to me,
"Come,, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared from you since the foundation of the world," (Mtt. 25).

Pope Francis, through this Jubilee Year of Mercy,  is demanding of us, as Church and as individuals such a conversion experience that we treat the needy  as Jesus would have treated them; as we would treat Jesus – not as nuisances, not with revulsion,  but as brothers, sisters - with godly compassion, mercy, love.                              

Let us pray, 

Almighty Father,
You do not judge a man by appearances, but read what is in heart! With shame we confess to you that when we see a man faded, ragged clothes we label him as a tramp or vagrant.  To us he is worthless. If he approaches us we count him as a nuisance who going to beg us for something, food, clothing, money. We justify ourselves to ourselves and to others in having nothing to do with him.
Lord, we need your help. It is part of our culture to be contemptuous of  such people. This judgmental, dismissive attitude is even well-lodged in our church-going mentality.   
We pray that you will cleanse us of these ugly dispositions. Give us the grace to see other people as you them; to treat them with compassion and respect. Free us from that meanness that makes us reluctant to part  with any of our possessions.  
Almighty Father, their needs are for their survival; ours  for our convenience!
Almighty Father, we pray that you will build up the self-confidence of these street people. Provide for them the opportunities to become self-reliant and the pride, the self-respect, to break free of their total dependence   on others. 

For the sake of His Sacred Passion have mercy on us                       and on the whole world.

Peter Clarke O.P.

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