St. John Chrysostom in the 4th century preached, “Whenever…you see a poor believer, imagine that you behold an altar. Whenever you meet a beggar, don’t insult him, but reverence him.” Spiritually speaking, the poor person becomes a living altar on which we can offer our charitable sacrifices to God.
When we give to the poor, we are giving to God. In the same way God received offerings at the temple’s altar in Jerusalem, he receives charitable offerings from the altar of the poor man. Jesus affirms this in Matthew 25, when he says, “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.” Jesus reminds us here that he has a special connection to the poor. What we do to and for them we are actually doing to and for him!
This Lent, let us love the poor. Let us see them through the same eyes as our compassionate Lord. And let’s take it a step further, and let us see Christ within them. Let us reverence Christ at the altars of the poor. What greater sacrifice could we offer than to love Christ in our brothers and sisters who are most in need? Make it point this Lent to pray for the poor, to contribute monetarily to the poor, and most especially, make it a point to encounter the poor. To encounter a person who otherwise might be ignored or disregarded is truly to encounter the living presence of Christ, He who has been disregarded, mistreated, and ignored by so many. Jesus is entrusting the poor, the most vulnerable in society, to our care. Let us respond to this call wholeheartedly; let us love Christ in and through them today and every day.
By David Roman, Jr.
Seminarian, Diocese of Bridgeport