The Outskirts


Yesterday, I had the honor of participating in the 34th Annual Food Share Radiothon on WESO 970 AM here in Southbridge.  Food Share is the food pantry organization of Southbridge, Webster, and Dudley and provides food to thousands of families in the Tri Town area on a daily basis.  Feeding the hungry is one of the things we are commanded to do by Christ in His Gospels and I was happy to help out.

If you have been reading these pages for any length of time, you know that our Church, St. Michael Romanian Orthodox Church, serves a Community Meal three times each month.  We call this a Community Meal on purpose, we are not only trying to feed those who might need a meal, but we are also attempting to build community at a time when more and more people are turning inward and becoming more and more isolated.  This is not a soup kitchen but an outreach to help those who need it.  This has become a vital ministry here and we struggle with ways to fund this ministry.

I a recent homily, Pope Francis told the priests assembled that they must “Go to the Outskirts” and minster to people.  I believe what Pope Francis is saying is that we need to move outside of our comfort zone and move out to the highways and byways of life to minister to people.  We need to sit with people and listen to their stories and get to know them.  The church, and by that I mean all Churches, need to find out what people need before we start something that we think they need.  The Church needs to move outside of itself and reach out.

I believe that Church is all about relationships.  Jesus did not sit under a tree and wait for people to come to him nor can we simply open the doors of the Church and wait for people to come in, we have to engage people where they are.  We need to go out of the Church and into the community and bring the love of Christ to them.  Not in an accusatory way, but in a way that lets people know that God loves them no matter who they are, and that they can find love, compassion, and healing in His Church.

Building relationships with people is not easy, listening to people is not easy, but it is what Jesus did.  Jesus taught the people but He also listened to them.  He was genuinely concerned about their lives and he ministered to them.  He comforted Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus.  He showed concern for His mother from the cross as well as asking forgiveness of His Father in heaven for those who had crucified Him.  Compassion was the hallmark of the earthly ministry of Jesus and it needs to be the hallmark of the ministry of the Church.

It is time for us to “go to the outskirts” and bring the love of Christ.  How will they come and see if we do not go and tell?

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