The other day we held our annual planning retreat for Catholic Charities’ managers at a nearby parish hall. We were in the middle of lunch when a man walked in looking for something to eat. He clearly had been living outside for a long time – his clothes smelled, he had long unwashed hair and a beard, skin tanned and crusted with dirt, his eyes were bleary, and his speech slurred. Our team members immediately welcomed him to join us, got him a plate of food and kindly found him a place at their table. When he finished his meal, he got up, mumbled a few words, and left.
A few years ago, we had a board member who had once been homeless, or as he said, “unhoused” – Palo Alto was his home. He said that one thing he appreciated about Catholic Charities was that we let him say “No” to being helped, but always kept the door open for him to come in when he was ready to take his place at the table.
In the Gospels, whenever the disciples encounter the resurrected Christ, at first they don’t recognize him. In the story of the encounter on the road to Emmaus, they only recognize him at the meal, in the breaking of the bread at the table. In the encounter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Peter recognizes Jesus when they pull in the abundance of fish and the other disciples finally recognize Jesus in the sharing of the meal of cooked fish and bread.
Every day we have the opportunity to set a place at the table for Christ. It may be the Christ hidden in the guise of those who are homeless seeking housing, frail elders seeking companionship, immigrants seeking to make ends meet, people seeking healing from mental illness, refugee orphans seeking safety and a home, children seeking understanding and a place to belong, or disaster survivors seeking to rebuild their lives. At the table of Catholic Charities, we don’t just share food, but healing, hope, housing, education, and an opportunity to work and thrive. The place at our table says to our brothers and sisters in need, “You are welcome. You belong. We do not judge you. We care for you. We have plenty enough to share.”
I invite you to help set a place at the table at Catholic Charities for our neighbors in need.
For more information on how to help please visit, www.CatholicCharitiesSCC.org.