Saturday, February 10, 2018

Met Georges Khodr: Where are the Poor? Where are the Hungry?

Arabic original here.

Where are the Poor? Where are the Hungry?

As we approach the fast, the Church wants us to know the meaning of fasting. We can examine it in a Christian document from the second century, written by someone defending the faith to the Roman emperor who said, "Those Christians whom you persecute are the best people in your kingdom, because even though they are poor, they deprive themselves of food to give what they have to the needy."

The purpose of fasting is love, to give, to feel. For this reason, the Church reads to us today the Gospel of the judgment. God only asks one question: "I was hungry and you fed Me, naked and you clothed Me..." and they said to Him, "When did we see You hungry? You did not come to the world after You left it in the resurrection and ascension. We have not seen you." He says to them, "What you have done with one of these little ones, you have done with Me. If you have fed the hungry, you have fed Me and if you have clothed the naked, you have clothed Me. When you fed the poor, you did not think of Christ and you did not say that Christ ordered us to do this, but merely by your giving your wealth to the poor and your welcoming everyone, you have given to Me and have welcomed Me, who united Myself to the poor, the destitute and the tormented upon the earth."

Therefore, I did not ask you to think of me in prayer only, and I did not ask you if you took part in the divine liturgy and prayers, but I did ask you if you helped the poor. Of course, giving does not justify one's not going to church. But church only means the Church active on the earth, the one that exists on the streets, the Church of the poor, the sick, the forgotten, the naked and the oppressed. There is Jesus' Church. We start off, of course, by going to prayer, but we go on to other things. We extend. Jesus is extended onto the earth, into the desert. He stands in your house and where we belong to Him. If our faces are oriented towards Him at all times, then we are with Him. And if we turn toward ourselves and our lusts, then we have no christ in the world.

This means, among other things, that the needy are not only the beggar who asks for a coin here and there. The needy are not only our sick neighbor. Of course we must care for our sick neighbor. But our neighbor is also someone who is not in our village, who is not in our country. Seek him out in the media. The poor person whom the Gospel speaks about today, as we prepare to fast, is also the refugee, the unemployed, the person who can't feed his family... If we feel these people's needs as they are, and we shape them into Christ-- that is, we trace Christ's face onto their face, whatever they say, whatever their ideas are-- if we read Christ in their faces, then we have fulfilled today's Gospel reading.

My concern here is not something that's called politics or non-politics. My concern is that people are hungry. Christ is hungry in them. My concern is to seek out the hungry, the poor, the ignorant so that he may learn, the marginalized, the sick whom no one cares for.

Therefore, as we start the Orthodox fast, we must seek out the poor so that we may know how to practice the fast. The fast isn't just abstention. It is abstention that extends into action, as we are purified through fasting so that we may be ready for any real practical action that we undertake so that the entire world around us may become God's Church.

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