March 14, 2021: The Fourth Sunday of Lent - Community Services Corner
The poor Pharisees in today’s Gospel. They’re so close to a miracle, so close to the Messiah they have been waiting for, but they can’t see what’s happening around them. They’re blind to the plight of their neighbors, and even more so to Jesus who stands in their midst offering the freedom they seek. In many ways it reminds me of the Final Judgment which Jesus describes in the Gospel of Matthew. Both the righteous and the accursed did not see the Lord when he came to them in the guise of the poor: a hungry beggar on the street, or a sick person in need of healing. The righteous don’t remember seeing the Lord because they didn’t recognize him. In their eyes, anyone in need, anyone who’s hungry, thirsty, sick, or imprisoned received their attention and care. The accursed, on the other hand, didn’t see the Lord because they were too focused on themselves.
I witness the same thing every day in my work with the homeless who come to the Lima Center. So often they tell me about how they feel unseen and ignored. People pass by them on the street without even acknowledging their presence. Thankfully that’s not the case with so many in our parish. I’m constantly getting calls and emails from people who want to volunteer or find some way to support our ministry.
In fact a few weeks ago, the mom of one of our youngest parishioners contacted me to tell me that her daughter has started a little business selling painted rocks and pottery, and that she wants the proceeds to go to the Lima Center. In order to help her customers understand what she's doing, they wanted to know how much it costs to feed one of our guests at the Lima Center. So I crunched the numbers.
Now many people don’t realize that even with the pandemic, the Lima Center has continued to function for the last year. We can’t have people inside like we used to, so we adapted and created a lunch-to-go program. Because we buy in bulk, $5 actually goes a long way, providing each guest with a ham and cheese sandwich, a small bag of potato chips, a Capri Sun, a cup of applesauce, 2 pastries, a cup of coffee with cream and sugar, and a hot serving of chili or spaghetti or chicken and rice. Since we're open four days a week, that means it cost $20 to feed one guest every day during the week. Another $5 allows us to provide each guest with a pair of socks, underwear and a simple hygiene kit which we give out once a week. In total, it costs $25 to support one of our guests for a week. With anywhere from 40 to 70 guests in a given week, that’s between $1000 to $1750 to cover supplies for one week at the Lima Center.
Unfortunately, donations to the Lima Center and Community Outreach are not what they used to be. Gift cards from the Giving Tree at Christmas were a big help, and we’ve received some bequests, but overall financial contributions are down. We couldn’t have a Harvest Bake Sale this year, nor many of the other fundraisers we hold.
Normally at this time of year, we have our Lenten water challenge, raising funds to bring clean water to a community in need somewhere here in the United States. This year, we’ve decided to do something different. There’s no card to fill out and you don’t need to track your beverage choices. Instead, for the rest of Lent, we’re asking you to think about what you can give to support our local homeless community: to feed the hungry, to give a cup of water to the thirsty, to put a pair of socks on the feet of those who must spend all day walking around because they have no home. Whether it’s $5, $25, $100 or $1000, it’s all appreciated because it helps us to serve our brothers and sisters in need. We can show them that they are seen, that we care about them, and most importantly, that the Lord cares about them.
We have some water bottles today with that passage from the Gospel of Matthew, “I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink.” Feel free to take one on your way out today. Let it serve as a reminder to pray for those in need and to consider what you can give. We’d like to receive all donations by Holy Thursday so that we have some good news to announce to our guests at Easter. Use the envelopes for community outreach found in the church or mail a check to St. Dominic’s with “Lima Center” in the memo line. Thank you so much for your support.
~ Br. Michael James Rivera