Fr. Coady’s homily from last Sunday has haunted me this week—in a good way! Father explained that the generous vineyard owner in the parable saw the “invisible” day laborers and invited them to work in his vineyard. He suggested that we try to put ourselves in the shoes of those laborers. I have been ruminating this week on who the “invisible day laborers” are in our Manhattan community.
How many homeless people live in the city of Manhattan? When driving around the city, I rarely see anyone I would categorize as homeless, but last year the Manhattan Emergency Shelter served 707 unduplicated clients. Each week, our Neighbor to Neighbor program serves 30-35 people a dinner meal at the First Lutheran Church. This ministry offers us a great opportunity to truly “see” the homeless—to visit with them if they wish to do so, to look them in the eyes and acknowledge their humanity. This summer, Deacon Andy made a connection with one of the young men we serve on a regular basis, and since then, I have seen him several times attending Mass here on Sunday. I hope he feels at home here with us.
Our USD #383 school system believes there are approximately 350 homeless children attending our schools this year. These children live in hotels, cars, campgrounds, abandoned buildings, or with friends if they have been separated from parents. How do we “see” this population? Due to privacy laws, we often don’t know a child’s living conditions, but we do know where they can go for help, and that is the USD #383 FIT Closet. You can help these children by supporting the FIT Closet and providing clothes and school supplies for these children. Currently, they are in need of children’s shoes.
Another group that may be “invisible” to our church community is the LGBT Catholics. I am currently reading Fr. James Martin’s book, “Building a Bridge.” The book describes how the LGBT community and the Catholic Church can meet on a bridge and treat one another with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Fr. Martin says that when he ministers to LGBT Catholics, they feel hurt, unwelcomed, excluded, and often insulted by the mainstream church. He suggests that as Jesus ministered to people on the margins, we as a church need to accept this community as beloved children of God. Fr. Martin says, “The church has a special call to proclaim God’s love for a people who are made to feel…as though they were damaged goods, unworthy of ministry, or even subhuman.” We need to remember that we are all sinners. Jesus hung out with the sinners, challenging them to conversion.
Fr. Coady said that Jesus is our model for living. Then, like Jesus, we need to recognize and truly see all people, especially those who seem invisible in the greater community and in our church.
~ Sherry Watts, K-6 Coordinator