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Blessed Are You Who Are Poor

January 13, 2013

Jesus was born in a stable into a poor human family in one of the poorest regions of Israel.  He lived, worked and ministered among the poor.  His words and His actions testify that He had a special place in His heart for them.

My reading of Luke 4 describing Jesus’ announcement of His ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth makes it clear to me that, as is often the case, His words operate at two levels.  He has come not only to liberate people from the oppression of sin, but also from social and economic oppression.  He came “to proclaim release to the captives” and also “to let the oppressed go free.”

I have learned through my life in Haiti that Christian faith has a different slant when viewed through the suffering, struggles and hope of the poor.  Having little means to help themselves, the poor more readily accept the admonition of the writer of Hebrews 4:14-16 (The Message), “Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help.  Living in community with my Haitian friends and neighbours, I too am learning to lean more heavily on God, often working through His people, for His mercy and help.  It has been a freeing experience.

Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them. 

Mother Teresa

I have long known that I am called to stand with the poor and the wounded in this world.  I have been learning that, as Henri Nouwen puts it, my calling is not to minister to them, but with and among them.  My taking this tack affords us the opportunity to bless one another, to do what we are called by God to do, to love one another, to recognize God in one another.

Although I am called to do many things in the course of my life in Haiti (and in Canada for that matter) I am learning that it is when I stop trying to “do” ministry that it happens.  It is when I simply offer who I am to others, as I gently explain to them who God is to me, when I am there for them in their need to share their struggles and their pain without being driven to “fix” it, that God works most mightily.  All I need do is be willing to be used by Him, to know I am loved by Him beyond my ability to understand, to accept the love of others with gratitude, and to love them for who they are, not wishing them to be anything else.  Sometimes His working is immediately apparent; sometimes I can only see it by looking back.

I never planned to go to Haiti.  In my wildest dreams I could never have imagined the life I now live.  I have been asked often how long I plan to stay.  The answer is simple:  this is not my plan, it is God’s.  If and when He has something else for me to do, He will let me know.

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