While walking home after shopping, a woman encountered an older man with a cardboard sign which read, “Homeless, anything will help.” As she handed him a dollar, a man roared by in an SUV and yelled, “Sucker!” The woman was disturbed by this, not only because of the man’s rudeness, but also because she knew his sentiment is shared by so many. What he thought he saw was a con artist or a lazy bum. But what she saw instead was a human being in need.
When we encounter the homeless, the poor, the desperately needy, what do we see? A human being in need? If so, that’s good. Better yet, however, is to see the face of Christ himself, as did the sixteenth century Italian saint we honor today, St. Camillus de Lellis.
Thanks to a gambling addiction and an incurable war wound, he knew both poverty and pain. God’s grace, however, helped him conquer his addiction and a lifetime of serving the impoverished sick as a nurse and a priest. To assist in this ministry, he founded an order which still continues today, the Camillians, who wear a distinctive red cross on their cassocks.
St. Camillus made it a point to seek our the impoverished sick to give them consolation and practical help. On occasion, people thought his actions were foolish. If they lived today, they might call him a “sucker.” For his part, however, St. Camillus would remind his critics that, as the gospel teaches, Jesus himself is encountered in the needy, and he challenged them, and he challenges us, to do the same. “The poor and the sick are the heart of God,” he said. “In serving them, we serve Jesus the Christ.”
Photo Credit: St. Camillus Parish website