Our community, the Open Door, is regularly wrestling with what it means to be an authentic community living among the urban poor. How does pursuing the true religion the God accepts not become a paternalistic handout that perpetuates white middle class privilege? How do we, like Jesus move into the neighborhood and journey with the marginalized?
Carlos in reflecting on Henri Nouwen’s journal Gracias: A Latin American Journal, from the six-month mission he took down to Bolivia and Peru gave us some encouraging words that speak to this incarnational mission with our neighbors. In Carlos' words: "May it remind us all that gratitude and celebration and sharing meals fit together naturally, even though only in Christ do they make the most sense."
Henri Nouwen, (from Gracias: A Latin American Journal, pp. 146–147)
Gratitude is one of the most visible characteristics of the poor I have come to know. I am always surrounded by words of thanks: “thanks for your visit, your blessing, your sermon, your prayer, your gifts, your presence with us.” Even the smallest and most necessary goods are a reason for gratitude. This all-pervading gratitude is the basis for celebration. Not only are the poor grateful for life, but they also celebrate life constantly. A visit, a reunion, a simple meeting are always like little celebrations. Every time a new gift is recognized, there are songs or toasts, words of congratulation, or something to eat and drink. And every gift is shared. “Have a drink, take some fruit, eat our bread” is the response to every visit I make, and this is what I see people do for each other. All of life is a gift, a gift to be celebrated, a gift to be shared.A few of us reading Mark Gornick's book, To Live in Peace in which he similarly states, “Building communities of grace in the inner city entails creating spiritual and social spaces of freedom and acceptance where relationships of honesty, support and encouragement are sustained in the grace of God.... A central task of the church in the inner city is to learn how to build communities of reconciliation that express the newness of the kingdom in social, economic, political and gender relationships.”
Thus the poor are a eucharistic people, people who know to say thanks to God, to life, to each other. They may not come to Mass, they may not participate in many church celebrations. But in their hearts they are deeply religious, because for them all of life is a long fiesta with God.
May the Lord continue to shower us with his grace to become such a people!!!!!