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 | By Father Charles Irvin

To Harbor the Harborless

We have all seen TV and newspaper images of people who have no homes and are living in makeshift shelters on the streets or in public parks. Who cares for them? Where can they find decent places to live, even if temporarily? Pope Francis would remind us that they should receive our love and care. One thinks of the dreadful things that are happening to the refugees and victims of terrorists in the Middle East.

At Christmas, we hear over and over again the story of Joseph and Mary finding no room in Bethlehem’s inn and giving birth to Jesus in an animal shelter, laying him in an animal feeding trough. Shortly after Jesus’ birth, they had to flee into Egypt, where they lived as aliens for three years.

There are others who are spiritually homeless and have no safe harbor, no spiritual shelters to protect them in the midst of this world’s moral chaos and spiritual storms. On occasion, you might see them in your church. No one is talking with them. You can sense they feel somewhat lost. They’re just there, “checking things out.”

The temptation is to do nothing. We can, however, give them a friendly greeting. We can make them feel welcomed, let them know we are interested in them and that there is room for them in this inn, your parish family’s home. We should be motivated by the words and actions of Pope Francis, who recently opened the Vatican to the homeless for free haircuts, shampoos and personal care. Put on the attitude of Pope Francis. Make your heart like Christ’s. 

It was once popular, and hopefully it still is, to ask: “What would Jesus do?” Well, we know what he did when he was on this earth: He went to those who were the “outsiders,” those who were living on the margins of his religious world and welcomed them into his heart. Like the outcast woman who was being stoned for her sins, Jesus gave her shelter. Like the woman at the well, Jesus gave her a “home” in his heart.

Shouldn’t we be doing the same?

As for those who actually have no home, you might consider helping out with Habitat for Humanity. Perhaps there is a chapter where you live. Perhaps your parish can start a chapter and actually build a home for a homeless family. Perhaps your parish can “team up” with other local Christian churches and civic organizations to start a Habitat for Humanity chapter. 

There is nothing quite as sad as having no house to live in, no home to share with family and loved ones. Blessed are those who care for the homeless, for they are serving as Christ’s hands in the world.