On Spiritual Economics

By Ko Oleg (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

From a homily by St. John Chrysostom (4th century)

Hast thou not heard Paul saying, “He which soweth sparingly, shall reap also sparingly”?265 Wherefore then dost thou spare? What, is the act an outlay? is it an expense? Nay, it is gain and good merchandise. Where there is merchandise, there is also increase; where there is sowing, there is also reaping. But thou, if thou hadst to till a rich and deep soil, and capable of receiving much seed, wouldest both spend what thou hadst, and wouldest borrow of other men, accounting parsimony in such cases to be loss; but, when it is Heaven which thou art to cultivate, which is exposed to no variation of weather, and will surely repay thine outlay with abundant increase, thou art slow and backward, and considerest not that it is possible by sparing to lose, and by not sparing to gain.

9. Disperse therefore, that thou mayest not lose; keep not, that thou mayest keep; lay out, that thou mayest save; spend, that thou mayest gain. If thy treasures are to be hoarded, do not thou hoard them, for thou wilt surely cast them away; but entrust them to God, for thence no man makes spoil of them. Do not thou traffic, for thou knowest not at all how to gain; but lend unto Him who gives an interest greater than the principal. Lend, where is no envy, no accusation, nor evil design, nor fear. Lend unto Him who wants nothing, yet hath need for thy sake; who feeds all men, yet is an hungered, that thou mayest not suffer famine; who is poor, that thou mayest be rich. Lend there, where thy return cannot be death, but life instead of death. For this usury is the harbinger of a kingdom, that, of hell; the one coming of covetousness, the other of self-denial; the one of cruelty, the other of humanity. What excuse then will be ours, when having the power to receive more, and that with security, and in due season, and in great freedom, without either reproaches, or fears, or dangers, we let go these gains, and follow after that other sort, base and vile as they are, insecure and perishable, and greatly aggravating the furnace for us? For nothing, nothing is baser than the usury of this world, nothing more cruel. Why, other persons’ calamities are such a man’s traffic; he makes himself gain of the distress of another, and demands wages for kindness, as though he were afraid to seem merciful, and under the cloak of kindness he digs the pitfall deeper, by the act of help galling a man’s poverty, and in the act of stretching out the hand thrusting him down, and when receiving him as in harbor, involving him in shipwreck, as on a rock, or shoal, or reef.

“But what dost thou require?” saith one; “that I should give another for his use that money which I have got together, and which is to me useful, and demand no recompense?” Far from it: I say not this: yea, I earnestly desire that thou shouldest have a recompense; not however a mean nor small one, but far greater; for in return for gold, I would that thou shouldest receive Heaven for usury. Why then shut thyself up in poverty, crawling about the earth, and demanding little for great? Nay, this is the part of one who knows not how to be rich. For when God in return for a little money is promising thee 34 the good things that are in Heaven, and thou sayest, “Give me not Heaven, but instead of Heaven the gold that perisheth,” this is for one who wishes to continue in poverty. Even as he surely who desires wealth and abundance will choose things abiding rather than things perishing; the inexhaustible, rather than such as waste away; much rather than little, the incorruptible rather than the corruptible. For so the other sort too will follow. For as he who seeks earth before Heaven, will surely lose earth also, so he that prefers Heaven to earth, shall enjoy both in great excellency. And that this may be the case with us, let us despise all things here, and choose the good things to come. For thus shall we obtain both the one and the other, by the grace and love towards man of our Lord Jesus Christ; to whom be glory and might for ever and ever. Amen.

Text retrieved from http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf110.iii.V_1.html

Don’t Call Us Marxist Because We Critique Capitalism — Call Us Christian

Don’t Call Us Marxist Because We Critique Capitalism — Call Us Christian

Great defense of Pope Francis’ statements about poverty, plus a bonus introduction to one of my all-time favorite theologians: Walter Rauschenbusch… and it’s written by his great grandson, Paul Brandeis Rauschenbusch

It is commonly agreed that for the first time in human history we can put an end to extreme poverty if we have the economic, political, moral and spiritual will to do it. Let’s do it.

In the meantime, if you are Christian and someone calls you a Marxist just because you are questioning why extreme poverty persists in era of such extravagant wealth, know that you are in good company — because Jesus did it first.

This Is Why Poor People’s Bad Decisions Make Perfect Sense

This is one of the best descriptions of the internal experience of poverty that I have ever come across.  Next time you feel like judging, read this first.  Classism is alive and well in America.

Reblogged from Huffington Post.

By Linda Tirado

“There’s no way to structure this coherently. They are random observations that might help explain the mental processes. But often, I think that we look at the academic problems of poverty and have no idea of the why. We know the what and the how, and we can see systemic problems, but it’s rare to have a poor person actually explain it on their own behalf. So this is me doing that, sort of.”

Click here to read the full article…

(Reblog) Pope Francis Puts The Poor Front And Center

Image by Roberto Stuckert Filho. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.


This article highlights Pope Francis’ connections to liberation theology.  Well worth the read.  If you don’t know what liberation theology is, educate thyself.

Reblogged from NPR:

“For [Pope Francis], social justice is not a sort of service of the church, an external relations department oriented to those who are victims of injustice… But it is part of the very essence of the church.”

Click here to read the full article

God Loves You As You Are

This week’s sermon from Boonville Presbyterian.

We’re in week 3 of our summer series: God Has A Dream

based on the book by Desmond Tutu

Click here to listen to this sermon at fpcboonville.org

I John 4:7-21

Excerpt from the book:

Dear Child of God, in our world it is often hard to remember that God loves you just as you are.  God loves you not because you are good.  No, God loves you, period.  God loves us not because we are lovable.  No, we are lovable precisely because God loves us.  It is marvelous when you come to understand that you are accepted for who you are, apart from any achievement.  It is so liberating.

We too often feel that God’s love for us is conditional like our love is for others.  We have made God in our image rather than seeing ourselves in God’s image.  We have belittled God’s love and turned our lives into an endless attempt to prove our worth.  Ours is a culture of achievement, and we carry over these attitudes to our relationship with God.  We work ourselves to a frazzle trying to impress everyone including God.  We try to earn God’s approval and acceptance.  We cannot believe that our relationship with God, our standing before God, has got nothing to do with our performance, our works.

Someone has said: “There is nothing you can do to make God love you more, for God already loves you perfectly and totally.”  But more wonderfully, there is nothing you can do to make God love you less—absolutely nothing, for God already loves you and will love you forever.

I’ve been told more than once that, practically speaking, every preacher really only has one sermon inside of him/herself that gets preached over and over again from ordination until retirement.  I don’t know if that’s actually true, but if it is, and if I get to pick what that sermon is, then I think would pick something like this: “God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it.”

Those of you who worship with us regularly are probably chuckling to yourself right now, because that’s how we end our sermons here every week.  I don’t mind admitting that it’s almost like a kind of slogan.  Hey, if you’re gonna have a slogan, it might as well be something like that, right?

But sometimes, I get a little scared that we use it so much that it loses its meaning for us.  God’s love is probably the single most overlooked of all the divine attributes.  It’s usually the first thing that kids learn in Sunday School: “Jesus loves me, this I know for the Bible tells me so.”  We hear it so often at church that we take it for granted as a basic part of our theology.  We never let the truth God’s love seep into us and soak us to our very bones.

Can you imagine what it would be like if we took showers in the same way that we reflect on the love of God?  We’d step behind the curtain and turn the water on for all of five seconds and then get out to dry.  If a person just did that every day, could he or she honestly say that he or she had “bathed” and was “clean”?  No, we wouldn’t say that.  Would you want to sit beside that person at church?  No, I wouldn’t either.  But, if that’s the case, why then would we expect people to want to come and sit beside us in our churches when we Christians, who claim to believe that “God is love”, don’t ever give that love more than five seconds of tacit consideration in our weekly liturgy?  Can we really say that we’ve “soaked” our souls in God’s unconditional love?

This morning, I want to invite you to go deeper with me into this mystery.  I want us to spend some time kicking back together in the Jacuzzi of divine grace.  We’ll know that we’ve been in there long enough when it starts to change us.  In the same way that soaking in water wrinkles our skin and makes us smell like soap or chlorine, soaking in God’s love changes the way we “smell” to the world.

As Archbishop Tutu points out in the book, we live in a society that thinks of itself as a “meritocracy”.  The American Dream says that anyone who works hard and does what is right can reach the top of the ladder of success.  To be fair, there is something very liberating in this ideal.  In ages past, you had to born into an aristocratic family in order to have access to resources and opportunities.  There are some who would argue that we still live in such a society.  But, in a conscious philosophical sense, America refers to itself as “the land of opportunity”, where anyone can potentially become the President or an astronaut, if they want it and work hard for it.  This is a good ideal to have.  It speaks volumes about the American commitment to liberty and equality.  As my dentist once observed, “The United States is the first country in history to be founded on a philosophy rather than an ethnicity.”

However, even when this philosophical system is functioning properly (which isn’t all the time), it can still leave us with a conscious or subconscious disdain for the “losers” and “failures” of the world.  Even though we know better, we often assume that those who are poor must somehow deserve their suffering.  We don’t like handing out our spare change to homeless people because we think “they’ll just spend it all on booze or drugs.”  We don’t like hearing about people on welfare because we think they might be somehow “cheating the system” while the rest of us subsidize their laziness.  Well, I’ve spent lots of time with people who are homeless or on welfare.  Yes, some of them do abuse drugs and others do stay at home when they are physically capable of working, but not all of them do so.  Many really need the extra help that they receive.  In fact, most of them actually need a whole lot more help than they’re currently getting.  I’ve also discovered that even those who are “abusing the system” in one way or another are doing so for reasons that are more complicated than mere laziness.  Having listened to their stories on more than one occasion, I cannot say with any degree of certainty that I would not being doing the exact same thing that they are doing, given the right circumstances.

Our American meritocracy inclines us to look down on those who fail in life.  “They made their own bed,” we say, “so let them lie in it.”  But I don’t think we often stop to think and realize that, for many of them, that bed is a deathbed.  Many of them are so caught up in cycles of poverty or addiction that they can no longer “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.”  When we dismiss them as worthless, we are functionally taking away their basic human dignity and saying to them, “You don’t deserve to live.”  These children of God, our brothers and sisters, are being given the death penalty for their mistakes.  Those who snort, “Just get a job, you lazy bum” as they pass by are casting themselves in the role of executioner.

I recently heard a rant by a popular figure whose name I will not mention.  This person says:

“There comes a time when compassion can cause disaster. If you open your home to scores of homeless folks, you will not have a home for long…

…Personal responsibility is usually the driving force behind success.

But there are millions of Americans who are not responsible, and the cold truth is that the rest of us cannot afford to support them.

Every fair-minded person should support government safety nets for people who need assistance through no fault of their own. But [some people] don’t make distinctions like that. For them, the baby Jesus wants us to provide no matter what the circumstance. Being a Christian, I know that while Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, he was not self-destructive.

The Lord helps those who help themselves. Does he not?”

“The Lord helps those who help themselves” could be the unofficial motto of our American meritocracy.  Many people think this proverb comes from the Bible.  Let me assure you that it does not.  Believe me, I’ve looked.

These words from this contemporary public figure strike me as eerily similar to the words of another passage that I came across while I was studying for my ordination exams in the Presbyterian Church:

“We know something of Christian duty and love toward the helpless, but we demand the protection of the nation from the incapable and inferior… We want [a] Church which roots in the national character, and we repudiate the spirit of a Christian cosmopolitanism.”

This passage comes to us from the so-called “German Christians” who ardently supported Adolf Hitler’s rise to power and subsequent dominance over Germany during the Nazi era.

In this week’s chapter of Desmond Tutu’s book, our friend the Archbishop shares with us a passage from Harald Ofstad’s book, Our Contempt for Weakness:

If we examine ourselves in the mirror of Nazism we see our own traits—enlarged but so revealing for that very reason.  Anti-Semitism is not the essence Nazism.  Its essence is the doctrine that the ‘strong’ shall rule over the ‘weak,’ and that the ‘weak’ are contemptible because they are ‘weak.’  Nazism did not originate in the Germany of the 1930s and did not disappear in 1945.  It expresses deeply rooted tendencies, which are constantly alive in and around us.  We admire those who fight their way to the top, and are contemptuous of the loser.  We consider ourselves rid of Nazism because we abhor the gas chambers.  We forget that they were the ultimate product of a philosophy which despised the ‘weak’ and admired the ‘strong.’

The brutality of Nazism was not just the product of certain historical conditions in Germany.  It was also the consequence of a certain philosophy of life, a given set of norms, values and perceptions of reality.  We are not living in their situation but we practice many of the same norms and evaluations.

This passage literally scares the hell out of me.  I’m not just swearing here.  When I look at my own culturally shaped ideals and realize that they might lead me to one day condone in my country what happened in Germany during the Third Reich, I want to tear them out.  I wish I could go through some kind of exorcism that would protect me from that demonic and infernal part of myself.  I feel motivated to look deeper into myself and hold tighter to what I believe is the heartbeat of the universe: the biblical truth that “God is love.”

Friends, the Lord does not help those who help themselves.  The Lord helps the helpless.  The Lord helps those who have made such a mess of their lives through their own fault that they cannot put themselves back together again and pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.  The Lord helps the undeserving, the losers, the failures, and the washouts.  The Lord helps the cowards, the deserters, the deniers, the betrayers, and the sinners.  The Lord helps the lost, the lonely, the losers, the left-out, the lazy, the let-down, the lustful, the lascivious, the lecherous, the lushes, the loveless, the lackluster, the lame-brained, the listless, and the low-down.  In short, brothers and sisters, the Lord helps us.

As Archbishop Tutu tells us, “None of us meet the norms or standards for success in all ways… we all feel inadequate in some way.”  He says elsewhere that we are all subsidized by God’s free grace.  He continues:

At the risk of getting myself into trouble, I will say that in a sense it actually doesn’t matter what we do.  For nothing we can do, no matter how bad, will change God’s love for us…

Just like a mother loves her child no matter what, so god loves you even if you don’t succeed, even if you don’t win.  Our capitalist society despises weakness, vulnerability, and failure, but God knows that failure is an inevitable part of life and that weakness and vulnerability are a part of creaturehood.  They are part of what makes us human.  It is through this weakness and vulnerability that most of us learn empathy and compassion and discover our soul…

When we begin to realize that God loves us with our weakness, with our vulnerability, with our failures, we can begin to accept them as an inevitable part of our human life.  We can love others—with their failures—when we stop despising ourselves—because of our failures.  We can begin to have compassion for ourselves and see that even our sinfulness is our acting out of our own suffering.  Then we can see that others’ sinfulness is their own acting out of their suffering.

As you can see, friends, our soaking in God’s love changes the way that we look at the world.  We are tempted to breeze past these simple words like, “God is love”, and take them for granted because they strike us as so irrelevant to what we think of as “the real world”.  We think of compassion as weak and useless.  Our culture teaches separate our lives into these semi-schizophrenic categories of the public and private spheres.  In the private sphere, we’re supposed to tell our kids that compassion is important and that they are loved unconditionally.  In the public sphere, we’re supposed to live by the principles of “winner take all” and “survival of the fittest”.  And because our culture measures “success” (and, by extension, the total value of our lives) by what we achieve in the public sphere, we tend to think of those cut-throat values as the way we should live in “the real world”.  So you see, our tendency to dismiss and ignore God’s unconditional love for us is not simply a slip of the memory.  I would go so far as to say that it is the result of a spiritual conspiracy that is currently choking the life out of our civilization.

If we are to live the kind of “abundant life” that Christ tells we are meant for, the main thing we need to do is turn our attention, in an intentional and extended sense, toward the truth that God loves each one of us unconditionally and without proviso or qualification.  That, my friends, is the truth that can set our hearts on fire and change this world forever.

God loves you and there is nothing you can do about it.

May this truth never become so routine that it loses its meaning for you.  May it soak you to the bone, cleanse your soul, and change your world from the inside out.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

Inferno of the Living

The Reverend Archene Turner

I heard this amazing sermon yesterday on the monthly Quest podcast from Church of the Larger Fellowship.  It was originally preached on December 12, 2009 at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Arlington, VA.  The preacher is Rev. Archene Turner, a Unitarian Universalist minister.  Many thanks to Rev. Turner, who has granted me permission to reprint her words here.

A friend suggested that I read Invisible Cities, a short novel by Italo Calvino that consists of dialogues between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan because she found the stories meaningful. I certainly found Polo’s thoughts about inferno provocative:

“The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”

I think we are living in an inferno. People acknowledge we are living in an economic crisis but family, we are in a moral crisis too.

A recent survey found that one in four families had been hit by a job loss during the past year and nearly half had suffered a reduction in wages or hours worked. For the working poor, already struggling, the current recession is knocking them down another notch – from low wage employment and inadequate housing toward erratic employment and no housing at all. Barbara Ehrenreich recently went back and interviewed some of the people in her 2001 best seller, Nickeled and Dimed, about the working poor, the quarter of the population that struggle even in the best of times. She called her article “Too Poor to Make the News”, because the media is looking for what has been called “recession porn” – stories about the incremental descent of the well off from excess to frugality, from ease to austerity.

A Typical story reads “Sarah and Tyrone Mangold … she was selling health insurance, and he was working on a heating and air conditioning crew. She got laid off in the spring, and he a few months later. Now, they had one unemployment check and a blended family of three children.

They ate at his mother’s house twice a week. They pawned jewelry. She scoured the food pantry. He scrounged for side jobs. Their frustration peaked one night over a can of pinto beans. Each blamed the other when that was all they had to eat. “People get irritable when they’re hungry,” Ms. Mangold said.

Mr. Mangold, no longer objects to using food stamps. “I always thought people on public assistance were lazy,” he said, “but it helps me know I can feed my kids. “

Stories like this often includes phrases like “Those we serve are now our neighbors, our former colleagues and hard working individuals struggling to make ends meet.

I wanted to SCREAM. Were not the people they served before our neighbors, our former colleagues and hard working individuals struggling to make ends meet? And “we’re hearing from more and more middle class people who have never in their life gone to a food pantry..they are very, very frustrated and angry.”

Who goes to food pantries for kicks ?

I thought about the hundreds of people I had seen at some of the ALIVE’s programs. On Halloween Day, that pretty unseasonably warm, Saturday morning, UUCA members Diana Day and Ann Marie Hay took the time to show me ALIVE’s child development center, food distribution and shelter as others prepared for monsters, ghouls & goblins.

The people I saw in the food distribution center did not appear angry. They were unusually quiet and respectful. Many of them looked like members on my own family tree – white, Native, Asian and Pacific Islander, African, Arab and Latino/a descent.

Perhaps the frustration and anger had passed out of them. Maybe there is a difference in people’s minds of climbing up a ladder than going down one. To me a rung on a ladder is a rung.

I thought of Polo’s two ways to escape suffering the inferno. The first is to accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it.

Many people do not know about the people ALIVE serves in Northern Virginia. We think need, struggle and hunger are in a distant land. Africa, New Orleans, the District of Columbia – but oh no, not here, not in our neighborhoods or in our religious communities or at UUCA.

We can live our lives so we no longer see what is happening in our world. We pretend that things are not happening all around us and we become a part of the inferno.

Most people when they think of an inferno think of Dante.

UU minister John Nichols noted that when Dante wrote:

“The Inferno” he was actually at the mid-point of his own life, struggling with disillusionment. He imagines that he was chased down into a vast h*** by wild beasts that threatened to tear him limb from limb. He passes beyond a sign reading, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here,” and then he knows that he has reached the outer suburbs of Hell.

Descending into the Hellish pit he finds the trail winds downward like a canyon in the shape of a corkscrew. The farther one descends, the greater the sins of those one passes.

The fiery temperature in Dante’s Hell drops dramatically where it houses people with a diminished capacity for caring. At the lowest level are those who have killed in themselves all love for others. Their souls are encased in ice.”

Okay confession time – I’ve never read Dante’s Inferno. I was raised on another story about Hell, about a rich man going to Hell and a poor man to Heaven. The rich man is surprised to see the poor man in heaven by the side of Abraham. In his suffering, the rich man pleads to Abraham to send the poor man to give him water to quench his thirst. Abraham says that the chasm is too wide to be crossed.

Martin Luther King Jr and other preachers have interpreted this story to mean that the rich man did not go to hell because he was rich;, but because he allowed the poor man to become invisible to him. He passed this poor man every day and failed to help. The rich man was blind to the need of others. Even in Hell, he held on to his notion that he was better than the poor man and could ask that he serve him. It is interesting that the rich man wanted the people in heaven to care and help him, but he had failed to do this in his own life on earth for others.

Perhaps our souls are encased in ice or destined to hell because we are blind to the needs of others. We might be that way because we ourselves are barely holding on. In “The Working Poor: Invisible in America, David Shipler writes that ‘in the house of the poor the walls are thin and fragile and troubles seep into one another’. Perhaps those troubles seep into our own lives, too, because our lives are just as fragile.

That is why I say we are living in an inferno and even Hell some days. Each of us walks that tight rope of hanging on to make sense of our own world . Something in us says “just do for you and yours.” I want to tell you to resist this urge. The act of doing the exact opposite – reaching out to help others– is the balm that heals us and is the very essence of who we are as religious people and what will lead us into a moral recovery.

Polo says the other way to escape the suffering in the inferno is to “seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.”

Polo does not say do things to make YOU endure and give YOU space – he says THEM. The act of caring for someone else is the message I would like to share with you this holiday season and do it to have faith in life like the old man in the reading.

Let us move from our past into our future building a better tomorrow for everyone.

Let us work together to create a world where we value people instead of things and we give the gift of ourselves to our one human family.

The song we just learned says “all of us are all united, we are family united and the other song asks what can I give..the answer is simple…give your heart.

So in this December season, make a list and check it twice of let’s say, three acts of kindness that you would not typically do for others. It can be our Unitarian Universalist holy trinity.. Do these acts with no expectation of a thank you or a need for acknowledgement from the other person or people because these are things you are giving YOURSELF to pull you out of the inferno of the living.

So may it be.


You Always Have the Poor With You

Since I have been on vacation this week, I was not present at our Thursday night Bible study as usual.  Because of this, my musings on this week’s gospel text are my own, and not enriched by the insights of our community at St. James Mission.

Our text this week is taken from John 12:1-8.

First of all, you should know that I love my job as Community Chaplain.  Even though the position does not (yet) come with a paycheck, it has its own dividends that cannot be quantified.  However, even in the best of jobs, there comes a time when one could use a vacation.

For the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that my capacity for Rogerian “unconditional positive regard” has been stretched to its limit.  At times, I have abandoned my usual non-directive stance in favor of speaking my mind.  One case that stands out concerns a friend who expressed a desire to enter rehab and then refused to go after I made the referral and followed up with him every day for a week.  Instead of letting it go, I gave him the cursory lecture on how alcoholism at his stage is fatal if left untreated.  Maybe it was tough love, maybe it was me giving voice to my own frustration.  Either way, I think I heard Carl Rogers spinning in his grave just then.

“You always have the poor with you”.  These words of Christ have stuck in my mind all week.  I hate how often they are used by Christians who want to excuse themselves from working for social justice.  Nevertheless, I felt the power of these words in a new way as I slammed up against the walls and limitations of my own finite love.

My friends Adria and Bob like to remind me that ministry in the margins cannot be based on the never-ending chasm of need that opens up before me.  If my success depends on someone else’s ability to change, I’m going to be a very unhappy person.  One day at a time, I am learning how to measure my success by my faithfulness to the one who has called me to love and serve the “least of these” in his name.  Contrary to the opinion of some Christians, this awareness does not excuse me from engaging with the poor.  Instead, it puts the fight against poverty and injustice into perspective.  We are not called to care for the poor in order to make a perfect society.  Neither are we called to admire them for their nobility.  We are called to love the poor because they are Christ.

As I head back into my regular routine this week, I pray for the eyes of my heart to be opened, that I might see my Savior in these dirty streets.  I pray that, like Mary of Bethany, my offering would reach beyond the social problems that surround me and touch the sacred heart of Christ.  To be clear, I fully intend to stay engaged with those who dwell in the margins of our society.  Indeed, I can do no other, since the one who said, “You always have the poor with you,” has also said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”  But what I want is for my engagement in the margins to be a means through which I see Jesus more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him more nearly, day by day.