Do you remember the story of Peter and John in the temple? A cripple comes up and begs for money and Peter replies, “I don’t have silver and gold, but what I do have I will give you– In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk.”
In pondering how to help the poor it seems to me that I am helpless. I (and my parish) really do not have the resources to engage in a charity project that could possible meet even a little bit of the enormous need in our community. Oh, yes, we do what we can, but it is so small compared to the great need. So what shall I do?
Then on the drive home from hospital it hit me. I was called out after Mass today to anoint a man who had just had a stroke. I went and anointed him and then later in the afternoon the family asked me to return. He had taken a turn for the worse. “Would I come to say the prayers of commendation at death?”
So I went and it was very emotional and beautiful. A committed Catholic family gathered around the deathbed doing the right thing. Anointing their loved one and handing him over the heavenly Father. I was able to be there being a priest–doing only what a priest can do.
It was on the way home that the phrase, “Silver and gold I have none” kept echoing through my brain and I realized that the Holy Spirit was speaking to me about the poor. I don’t have the resources to help them as I would wish. However, what do I have? I have the same apostolic faith of Peter and James. I can best serve them as a priest.
Most of them aren’t even Catholic, but I can still best serve them as a priest–not as a social worker or a soup kitchen organizer or a career advisor or a housing supervisor. I can work with all the other people who do such a great job helping the poor with material needs, but that is not my job. I can co-operate with those who provide help, and promote their work and motivate my lay people to continue that work. But I can’t do that.
Instead I will serve them as a priest. It’s all I can do. It’s all Peter and John could do.