By Father Alonzo Q. Cox
BEING A NATIVE New Yorker, I am very much accustomed to the New York City subway system. Having taken the subway trains all my life to get within the five boroughs, I am aware of how the system works. I am also aware of my surroundings while riding the subway at certain times of the day.
We are blessed here in New York City to have a 24 hour/7 day a week subway system that can transport straphangers from one part of the city to the next. With all of that, there comes an array of people who frequently ride the subway, some of whom, unfortunately, call the rails their home.
Over the last few years, our city has seen a large influx of homeless people. Many of us who ride the trains have seen the homeless sleeping in train cars and panhandling for spare change. It’s a tough image for me to see, especially during these winter months. My heart breaks when I see young people, most especially children who, by one way or another, find themselves homeless.
I have grown into the custom that whenever I see the homeless, whether it be on the subway or on the streets, I immediately say a prayer, asking Jesus to heal and comfort them. I then ask myself, what am I doing to heal and comfort them?
Today’s second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians tells us very boldly what we should do: As disciples of the Lord, we must imitate Him! We must be imitators of Christ Jesus, bringing His merciful love to all of God’s people, not for our own glory, but for the glory of God, our heavenly Father.
St. Paul says, “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Avoid giving offense, whether to Jews or Greeks or the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in every way, not seeking my own benefit but that of the many, that they may be saved” (1 Corinthians 10:31-33).
Bringing the merciful love of Christ to all of God’s people includes the rich, the poor, the young, the old and yes, the homeless! As we hear in today’s Gospel, a leper came before Jesus and begged for him to be healed and cleansed.
How many times have God’s people come before us, begging for the little that we may have so that they could have a warm meal or a temporary place to stay for a night or two. Do we imitate Christ in bringing His mercy and compassion, or do we dismiss them as unclean?
As we approach the season of Lent next week, let us keep the words of St. Paul alive in our minds and hearts. We must be imitators of Christ to all people, not just those with whom we want to be or are comfortable, but all of God’s people.
May we go out and bring Jesus Christ to all who are in dire need of His love and mercy.
Readings for the Sixth Sunday In Ordinary Time
Leviticus 13: 1-2, 44-46
Psalm 32: 1-2, 5, 11
1 Corinthians 10: 31 – 11:1
Mark 1: 40-45
Father Cox is the pastor of St. Martin de Porres parish, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and diocesan coordinator of ministry to African-American Catholics.