poor, humiliated yet blessed

Every morning they are woken by the loud human alarm clock - someone obnoxiously yelling that it's time to get up and out!

Every breakfast they wait in a long line for a ticket, so they can wait in another line for a plate of food!

Every lunch and dinner they go through the same procedure, grateful for that tray of grub they can't afford, didn't cook or choose!

Throughout every day they are at other people's disposal; obeying the constricting rules, they line up and show their IDs for soap, shower, the iron and the all important bed to sleep in at night - knowing nothing's a guarantee!

Every week they wait for the call that the "Free-Store" is open, so they can try and choose some second hand clothes that may come close to fitting! They have to request transportation and laundry cards, so they can get to their work, appointments or visit family with decent hygiene - again realizing that nothing's a guarantee!

Every night they end up lining up again for a nightly mattress and rough wool blanket next to about 65 other men battling the same woes of homelessness!

These men live their life of lines, tickets and submission. These men are grown men; many are veterans, many have worked for years and many are senior citizens. Every day, these men have to humble themselves by submitting themselves to this system or they may end up dealing with Chicago's harsh weather, sleeping under its hazy sky on an empty stomach.

Meanwhile, certain legal and illegal things that are regularly done in the privacy of people's homes become immediately visible when someone is homeless. Drinking alcohol, using drugs and pornography can result in them being denied a bed. Even the simple and common act of watching TV is a communal event, where the individual does not have the freedom to pick and choose what they wish to watch.

This is the way it is! Freedom has vanquished from their lives - they are homeless and live in a homeless shelter. They are more prone to be victims of hate crimes, getting arrested for minor infractions, discrimination and general societal rejection! They sadly find themselves being pushed away and pushed out!

This is a realistic view of how over a hundred men exist daily. They are simply trying to get a night’s sleep in our crowded overnight shelter: Epworth!

Now put yourself in their shoes and think about it.
How would you cope?
How would you deal with this loss of freedom?
How would you feel if your health and well-being were subject to this system they rely on?

When I ponder it all and look into their eyes, I see a deep ingrained poverty that is both physical and "in spirit!" They are hurting! They are trapped! They are lost! All ability to "do it" on their own is gone and they know they need someone else! They need others, they need CCO, they need me and, most importantly, they need God!! Humility is the road they must travel on; the road is narrow, the road is rough, the road is full of obstacles and it’s a lonely road!

When we consider the words and actions of Jesus, we realize his great love and compassion for men like these. His very first phrase of the Sermon on the Mount was "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." In Luke He said "blessed are you poor; for yours is the kingdom of God", but also added the counterpart; "woe unto you that are rich! For you have received your consolation."

Jesus came to earth to establish the Kingdom of God, and he made it perfectly clear who His Kingdom is for. He stated that the poor and poor in spirit are the blessed ones. But, he didn’t stop there, he proclaimed that the rich and arrogant have already received their blessings; right here on earth! He rocked the people’s worlds by saying the tax-collector was righteous (not the self-righteous Pharisee) because he beat his chest and refused to look to heaven while he prayed the very simple prayer: “God, have mercy on me! A sinner!”

We, who have affluence, have a lot to learn from these homeless men. Morality isn’t the key; faith and humility is! We, like the Pharisee, can tend to say to ourselves and others: “I am glad I am not like that crack-head, that wino, that bum, that welfare mama, that criminal, that felon, that junkie, that whore, or that schizophrenic crazy guy over there talking and yelling to himself.” I know I have been just like that arrogant Pharisee, but Jesus cries; "'STOP!' Look at them and learn from them, they have inherited My Kingdom, because they are poor in spirit!”

The simple phrase of Jesus resounds powerfully: The first shall be last, and the last shall be first!

James also made it clear: Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him? (2:5)

Wow: We who are rich in this world need to become poor. Like Paul; we need to boast in our weaknesses. Like Jesus; who humbled himself by taking on the form of a human man and then chose the path of powerlessness, humility, love, compassion and obedience. This narrow path took him to the cross. Like the Church fathers and mothers; who chose to imitate these two and were fed to the lions.

Last night, Bob came to me and asked if I could find him a room for one night. He is married. He stays at Epworth and she resides in our woman’s shelter. He has no money for a hotel room. He cannot sleep next to her. He cannot make love to wife without getting into trouble. He is a confident energetic man, but he is desperate! So with much embarrassment, he humbly begs me to help him find somewhere, somehow! The circumstances in Bob’s life have made him both physically poor and poor in spirit.

Every day I see these men struggling through their lives. But every day I see these men praying the same way and the same prayer as the humble tax collector. Every day I see the generosity of the widow giving away her mite. Every day I see such a strong faith in so many hopeless situations. Every day I see beautiful love and forgiveness in all the chaos. Every day I realize and pray, knowing that I need to become poor, because “Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Check out this short youtube clip regarding Epworth:

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