Yesterday, I wrote about my desire to make the world a better place. I feel so small and insignificant, but I realize that I can make a difference. I have been feeling dissatisfied with the small steps I have taken so far. I have been thinking and praying about what else I can do, what other steps I can take. Today at Mass, this was the first reading:
Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday. Isaish 58:7-10
I guess, if I really needed God to spell things out for me, then today’s reading tells me exactly what I am called to do. Share my bread with the hungry. Shelter the homeless and oppressed. Clothe the naked. Do not turn my back on my own. What do those things mean for me? Sharing my bread might mean donating to a food cupboard OR it might be volunteering at a food pantry or soup kitchen. Sheltering the homeless might mean giving to Habitat for Humanity or a homeless shelter. I know that St. Mary, a downtown church, sometimes goes around in the evening giving out blankets to people who are homeless and choose not to go to a shelter. Clothe the naked. For this one, I know what I can do right away. I can go through my clothes and give the items I no longer need or want to Goodwill. I can start with that one today. Not turning my back on my own means reaching out to my husband and children and father and brother and sisters and in-laws and nieces and nephews. I have been really bad at this in the past but I am trying hard to make amends now. I want to take time and energy to show “my own” that I love them.
With all of the above, I can think of concrete ways to incorporate these directives into my life. I can give up some of what we have in order to make poverty in the lives of others more bearable. I want to avoid just making token efforts to make myself feel better. I want to find ways to really assist those in need. My sister recently gave me a suggestion that I love. When I am on the bus, I often see young mothers with small children and I worry about them. After I wrote a post about a woman I saw one day, my sister suggested that I pick up some McDonald’s gift cards and have them with me. Whenever I see one of these families, I can give the mom a gift card as a way to brighten her day. I have wanted to do this for weeks, but ever got around to it. I am going to commit to buying some gift cards this week and beginning to give them away. I am also going to commit to cleaning out my closet and taking some clothes to Goodwill. This week.
It would be so easy if today’s scripture stopped after giving the call to take the above steps. The reading goes on, though, to add:
If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
This is the hard part. This is the part that requires a change in my character. I have to look at the ways that my actions lead to the oppression of others and stop doing them. I want to look at whether any systems that I support do, in fact, cause the oppression of anyone. This will require me to educate myself and change my behaviors. Also, the reading calls me to remove false accusation and malicious speech from my life. Malicious speech: awful, bad-natured, baleful, beastly, bitter, catty, deleterious, detrimental, envious, evil, evil-minded, injurious, jealous, low, malevolent, malign, malignant, mean, mischievous, nasty, noxious, ornery, pernicious, petty, poisonous, rancorous, resentful, spiteful, uncool, vengeful, venomous, vicious, virulent, wicked. I have to make sure that, when I speak, I am none of these things. Ornery? Catty? Envious? Mean? I can see that I have a long way to go.
Today’s reading offers me so many opportunities on so many different levels. I have some items that I am committed to doing this week. I have some issues to educate myself about. I have some character development to work on. It’s so wonderful that I asked, just yesterday, what I can do to become a better person, a person who has more to offer the world, and today I receive a detailed answer. It really makes me see how amazing God is when I see grace giving me answers so quickly after I ask a question. Now, I have to make sure to respond just as quickly to God’s call to action. I can’t pretend I don’t know the answer. I have to act.