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The Poor and Marginalized are not ‘Boxes to be Checked’: Reflections on Matthew 25

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By John Tracey

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me. . . Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25: 35-36, 40)

This quote has been a stinging thorn pushing into my stable, privileged, and comfortable life. As part of the gospel, I am bound as a Christian to take Jesus’ challenge seriously, but also as a self-centered, flawed human being I wrestle with this quote’s implications: why should I care for the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the least of Jesus’ brothers who often appear dirty, unkempt, frightening, and coarse mannered?

Throughout my time at Fordham, I have come to a working conclusion, a best guess informed by the destabilizing experience of living in the Bronx. This may seem like a non-sequitur, but Ursula K. Le Guin captures my conclusion perfectly in her science fiction novel The Dispossessed, “And in the eyes you see the splendor, the splendor of the human spirit.[1]”

I have found that when I look into the eyes of the hungry, the thirsty, the dirty, and the coarse, if I let their humanity attack my own resisting brain, then I cannot turn away and I cannot put back the blinders. At the same time, I know that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” and that intelligence and reason should inform how I respond when I can no longer turn away.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.