“If our poor have at times starved to death, it is not because God doesn’t care for them. Rather, it is because you and I have refused to give food to them. We have not been instruments of love in God’s hands, so that God can give them bread or offer them clothing. It has happened because, once again, we have not recognized Christ under the disguise of suffering in the hungry. We have not recognized him in the one who suffers from loneliness. We have not recognized him in the homeless child looking for shelter.” Mother Teresa, “Children of God: Our Brothers and Sisters”
Scripture: Matthew 8:14-17
This morning, our group had two options: some of us could serve at Mother Teresa’s hospital for babies, while others could serve at Mother Teresa’s hospital for the destitute and dying. At first, I processed this as a choice between two polarities. Either I could witness the fresh, new beginnings of a human life, or I could wrestle with the uncomfortable reality of a human life coming to an end. Because I wanted to experience something hopeful in the midst of a country that is all too often characterized by despair, I traveled to the hospital for babies.
As we arrived, and I awkwardly smiled at and tried to play with these babies, several thoughts and questions surfaced. Who will this young child eventually grow up to become? Will this fleeting moment shared between us have any future significance for either of us? Maybe, if I act silly enough, I can bring a temporary smile to this child’s face…but, at the end of the day, won’t she still go to sleep tonight hungry, malnourished, and abandoned by her biological parents? Maybe I can adopt her one day and give her the family she deserves. But, how can I support this child? The adoption process takes two years…I don’t have the finances to support a child…I am in graduate school…and there is a long laundry list of excuses as to why I am not humble enough to love somebody in such a way.
With these questions in mind, I soon realized that my choice this morning was not one of polarities. In both hospitals, we saw human life in its most vulnerable states. At birth, we humans depend on the nourishment, love, and care from others in order to survive. Toward our final days, this dependence presents itself once again. In fact, to make matters more scary, uncomfortable, or mysterious (whatever you want to call it), this vulnerability does not only exist in birth and death. At any point in our lifespan, we know that the moment of our physical end is right around the corner. For most of us, however, we clothe this vulnerability with more tangible, physical, and sometimes false hopes and securities.
But, there is a bright side. In our reflection time last night, Chaplain Bates left us with the question, “Where do you find your brother or sister?” Over the course of the trip, many of us have noted that our individual lives and circumstances are a matter of mere fate. For example, although most of us live in a country where trash is kept off the streets (at least most of the time), or where hunger doesn’t twist our stomach in knots before we settle down to sleep at night, we could’ve easily been born as another child—a child, who, for some reason, doesn’t meet up to her parents’ expectations and is, therefore, left at the gate of a hospital for anyone to find. Yet, we all share in this fate. And, because we all remain vulnerable before that which brought us into the world, we find our brothers and sisters in the eyes of every human being.
So, perhaps Mother Teresa is right. Our vulnerability becomes more noticeable when we fail to acknowledge our common humanity in each other, and, therefore, fail to love our fellow brothers and sisters in the way that we so easily love ourselves. More importantly, it becomes more noticeable when we fail to see the Christ in the eyes of our fellow brothers and sisters—the Christ, the one who has taken on our infirmities and redeemed our painful vulnerability.
By: Robert Flowers