by Sr. Linda Koontz
Be close to the poor and to those in need, so as to touch in their flesh the wounded flesh of Jesus. Please draw near to them. (Pope Francis)
“The spirit of the Lord is upon me; therefore he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor!” (Lk 4:18). This is every Christian’s job description. Jesus wants us to understand that what he said is true, that the spirit of the Lord is upon me. He was talking about himself but later on he tells us that he will give us the same spirit so that we will be able to carry out his mission in the world (See Jn 16:4-7, 13-14). All who believe in him and follow him are to be anointed by the Holy Spirit.
“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down upon you” (Acts 1:8). The word power translated from the Greek means ability, efficiency and might. When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit we are fully equipped to draw near to the poor and to bring them the Good News of God’s love in Jesus Christ. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are Jesus’ love flowing through us to touch the wounded flesh of Christ. Disciples of Jesus are God’s chosen instruments to bring hope to the hurting world and to deliver justice to the poor and oppressed. All of our service must be led by the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:10) so that our works will bear fruit. We can pray, “Holy Spirit lead me to the person you want me to bless.”
I visited Tomas and his wife in their humble shack and invited them to the prayer meeting in the hills of Juarez, Mexico. Tomas came and I noticed that he always carried a small empty bucket. The thought came to me, “Put a chicken in his bucket. “ I did … I continued for several weeks. Many years ago I heard these words in my heart, “Always bring Jesus with the food.” We presented the Good News in the meeting: “Jesus died for you so that you many have forgiveness of your sins, receive a new life on this earth, and receive a new life for all eternity.” Many accept this gift of salvation each week and experience joy, freedom, and God’s love filling them. The poor gladly receive the Good News. Tomas had no response. Finally, the week of Christmas, with tears, he surrendered his life to Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. Just three months later he died. His wife said that he was a changed man.
We cannot preach good news and be bad news. Yes, we must meet physical needs, but we must do more. We must bring the Gospel to the poor (Rom 1:16). The Gospel is the power of God!
Juanita, a widow, came to the prayer meeting because she was sick. She could not afford a doctor. She lived in a tent and had little food. She was filled with joy to hear that Jesus still heals today and wants to touch her. We prayed with Juanita and she was set free from sickness and depression. She gratefully received the Holy Spirit. We built her a small house. All four of her children became zealous followers of Jesus and turned from a life of prostitution and vice.
The poor are also the rich who don’t know Jesus—those who have enough of this world’s goods but don’t know the reality of what Jesus did for us by dying on the cross.
Mark was a successful businessman. He was brought to his knees when his wife left him because of his uncontrollable temper and lustful lifestyle. No one had ever presented the Good News of Jesus to him. He gladly repented of his sins and was freed from despair. He went to confession and returned to the sacraments. He is now preaching the Gospel in South America. He first shared with his family and friends.
We can touch Jesus if we are willing to go to the poor—Draw near! (Matt 28:19).
We go to the children in the hills who have no food. We feed them and teach them about Jesus. We go to the unemployed and help them get jobs and teach them about Jesus. We go to the forgotten elderly and bless them with medicine, food, and clothes and teach them about Jesus’ love. We go to the widow and to those who live in shacks. We have been able to build small homes and provide help as we teach them about Jesus. We go to the dying and pray with them to receive the gift of eternal life.
When we receive the Holy Spirit we have the ability of the Holy Spirit to do what is impossible for us to do by our own efforts. Faithful listening to the Holy Spirit’s guiding us will always lead us to draw near to the poor and touch in their flesh the wounded flesh of Jesus. Please draw near to them.
(©Pentecost Today, Summer 2015 From the website of the National Service Committee www.nsc-chariscenter.org used with permission)
Photo: Homeless by Serkan Gui (FreeImages.com)
Sr. Linda Koontz S.N.J.M. is director of Spirit of the Lord International Mission, an outreach to the poor. She also travels as a teacher and evangelist in the Charismatic Renewal.