As I listen to the sounds of school children playing outside my window, I ponder this question posed by Gustavo Gutierrez:
“How do we say to the poor: God loves you?”
This question, seemingly my constant companion for the Lenten season, is softening and stirring my heart as I contemplate what it means to say God loves you, not with words alone but with the choices and the patterns of my life.
In many ways, the question is not new to me. However, in this season of life, it feels as if it could revolutionize the way I see and respond to God through the people I meet each and every day. If I live with the intention and purpose of declaring God’s love, it means that I cannot be indifferent to injustice, poverty, or pain. I cannot choose to remain in comfort while my neighbor is needlessly suffering. Loving in theory will never be enough. Instead, mercy and kindness are required – and in plenty.
As Mother Teresa passionately spoke, I realize, “It is not enough for us to say: I love God, but I do not love my neighbor. St. John says you are a liar if you say you love God and not your neighbor. How can you love God whom you don’t see, if you don’t love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live. And so this is very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. It hurt Jesus to love us, it hurt him…He makes himself the hungry one – the naked one – the homeless one – the sick one – the one in prison – the lonely one – the unwanted one – and he says: You did it to me. Hungry for our love, and this is the hunger of poor people. This is the hunger that you and I must find…”
A beautiful little girl named Chumba is currently at Kimbilio Hospice. Her date of birth alone tells me that she is ten years old. A terrible combination of chronic hunger and disease have left her fighting to survive. Oh, Chumba wants to live. Her constant request is to return to school. When I sit beside Chumba’s fragile body, I grieve because of her pain and the questions that fill her dark eyes. With all that I am, I want Chumba to be well. I long for her to have enough energy to play, to laugh again. I want her voice to be among the school children singing outside my window. Most of all, I want her to know that she has not been forgotten by God. So, how do I, and the Living Room team, say God loves you to Chumba? This is the question we must ask and seek to live out every day.