March 4, 2018

When speaking of the poorest people in Calcutta, with whom she ministered, St. Mother Teresa famously said that “each one of them is Jesus in disguise.” Mother Teresa was referring to the famous scene in the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus tells a parable of the final judgment, when those who served those in need and those who did not, both failed to recognize that Jesus was in them. He lives in the poor, “in disguise,” as it were.

During our journey of Lent, you and I are reminded of our obligation to serve those in need. The Lenten discipline of almsgiving is a reminder of where Jesus is found - among the poor and the marginalized. Along with prayer and fasting, almsgiving is a discipline that can re-focus us on that which is most important, can re-focus us on our relationship with God.

Next week, we take up a special collection to support the work of Catholic Relief Services (CRS). This international aid organization of the U.S. Catholic Church ministers all over the world to “Jesus in disguise.” CRS was founded by the U.S. Bishops in 1943 to help war-torn Europe and its refugees recover. During World War II, CRS’ work focused on the resettlement of war refugees in Europe. Today, more than 75 years later, the mission of CRS continues to focus on the poor overseas, using the gospel of Jesus Christ as their mandate.

In the 1950s, as Europe was regaining its strength, CRS looked to other parts of the world, seeking those who could benefit from the assistance of Catholics in the United States. CRS expanded its work to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America.

During this time of expansion, CRS built on its tradition of providing relief in emergency situations and began to seek ways to help people in the developing world to break the cycle of poverty through community based sustainable development initiatives. These programs - which today include things like agricultural initiatives, community banks, health, education and clean water projects - ensure that the local population is the central participant in its own development and that a project can be sustained through the effort and resources of the local community.

In addition, CRS continues to be there, on the front lines when disaster strikes. Natural disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, always see CRS right there helping those affected by the disaster. They are also right there when human-caused disasters strike, like what we see unfolding in many war-torn parts of the world.

On their website, CRS notes that with more than 75 years of experience overseas, CRS understands “that rebuilding societies requires more than mortar and bricks. Through its works, the agency seeks to foster within the U.S. Catholic community, a sense of global solidarity, providing inspiration to live out our spiritual tradition of compassionate service to the world.”

We know that Mother Teresa was right, that Jesus does come to us in the disguise of the poor and those in need. And while you and I might oftentimes fail to see him in them, our support of Catholic Relief Services can assure that we are empowering those who seek him out in the poor and suffering every single day.

I encourage you to prayerfully consider a gift to CRS in next week’s special collection. There are envelopes in the pews this week for your convenience. Through our support of CRS this Lent, may we be drawn deeper into the life of Jesus, who comes to us in the disguise of the poor.

God Bless,
Fr. Gary Lazzeroni