Am I the Older Brother?

Am I the Older Brother?

A Reflection on the Parable of the Prodigal Son

RM8_9651By Makena Clawson

When we consider the parable of the Prodigal Son, we often ponder just that: the Prodigal Son. But what about the two other characters, the good Father and the older brother?

I am the older brother. Not having had a radical conversion, I identify with the older brother who stayed on his Father’s land his whole life, but maybe never appreciated it. The older brother is bitter and angry when the younger son returns after his life of debauchery away from the Father’s house. How come he is welcomed back so quickly? I’ve put in so much effort and received no reward!

The older brother wanted to leave the house many times, but didn’t. We may not have physically left the Father’s house, but what about in our hearts? I left through pride, bitterness, and grumbling about the benefits I’d have if I did leave. And now the younger son who has done what I always wanted to do, returns. How could I welcome him back? He, who got a taste of the outside world and returned without consequences?

As a Christ in the City missionary, I work with the homeless everyday. I go out to the street to meet and talk with people who are normally ignored. I meet people who are broken, ashamed, and want so badly to return to the Father’s house. They have left and now “feel the pinch” as the Gospel says. How do I welcome them back? Am I the older brother who refuses to welcome them? Have I realized the gift that it is to be in the Father’s house?

Dear Lord, You call all of us back to Your house. I have strayed in big ways and in small ways. Please welcome me back. I know Your mercy is bigger than my pride. Help me to not be afraid to run back to you every time I stray.

Lord, help me to welcome back those who have left your house. Help me to not hold any bitterness against them or You. Please give me a humble heart to realize I have left You many times, too. Please forgive me. I love You, Lord. Amen.

Makena Clawson is a first-year missionary and recent graduate of Benedictine College. She wishes the whole world loved Jesus, speaking in Spanish, and Nancy Drew as much as she does.

Why Do You Call Me Good?

Why Do You Call Me Good?

Screen shot 2016-01-14 at 10.50.48 AMBy Marie Dukart

Are we good? A common phrase I hear out on the streets is “I’m a good person,” or “I don’t hurt anyone by my choices.” What kills me is that’s my inner monologue as well.

It doesn’t help that people come up to me and other missionaries and tell us: “You are doing such good work.” “I could never do what you guys do.” And even, “thank you for your sacrifice.” And in a way those people are right. Serving the poor is good work. Most people won’t be a Christ in the City missionary and “give up” a year (or two) of their lives.

But the question I keep coming back to: does this work make me good? No. God created me good, but how do I cooperate with his goodness?

Frankly, I became a missionary with mixed motives, and when I came I thought I was a decent Catholic/Christian. But, boy, was I wrong. “Doing” good things doesn’t make anyone good. As Scripture says, “ Man sees the appearance and God sees the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)

My heart was and is proud and selfish, and I do things because I want to look good, not because I actually want to be good. Being good means letting go of your own ideas about life, letting God take the reins, and asking Him to show me how self-centered my intentions are.

Just this past week I was running alone on Cherry Creek trail and I saw a man lying unconscious alongside the running path. He appeared to be homeless and I don’t ever interact with people when I’m running by myself. I ran right past him; then I stopped. I can’t explain the interior conflict in my heart and mind. Fear and self-preservation vs. an overwhelming sense that I had to help: the good Samaritan story happening in my own life.

I struggled to stay calm as he was turning blue, his eyes half-open, and his gasping breath freaking me out that he was going to die right then and there. It wasn’t because I was a good person that I called the ambulance and stayed by him until the paramedics came. No, I stayed because the Holy Spirit compelled me to take a risk and, perhaps, save a life.

“Why do you call me good?” You call Christ in the City missionaries good because every once while in a while we let the Holy Spirit take the reins.

Marie Dukart is a second-year missionary and an alumnus of the University of Mary in North Dakota. She’s passionate about Beauty, Truth and Goodness and naps..

All Things to All People

All Things to All People

Screen shot 2016-01-14 at 10.56.23 AMBy Mary Sullivan

When I signed up to be a Christ in the City missionary, I didn’t quite understand the scope of what I was signing up for. I knew I would be encountering the poor and building friendships with them, but I didn’t know just how deeply I would be diving into the lives of our friends on the street.

Recently I have been reflecting a lot on the words of St. Paul, “I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some. 23 I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Cor 9:22-23)

In the past month, I have had to be many things. In my community I have been a chef, cooking meals for 20+ people. I have been a student, studying and learning about my faith so that I can better live it out. I have been a host for a friend visiting from home, sharing my life and mission here with her. I have been a sister to the women in my community, walking with them through the challenges and joys of our hectic life.

With my friends on the street, I have been a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold for a dear friend who always has lots of hugs to spare during a memorial service for her husband. He struggled with alcoholism and passed away while sleeping outside on Christmas night.

I have been a taxi driver for a friend with schizophrenia, driving him all over the city of Denver to help him get some things taken care of so that he could get to his surgery on time. All the while he was freaking out in the back seat because he was stressed out and he didn’t trust that we were actually going to be able to help him.

I have been a mother/sister/friend to a woman that I hardly know, accompanying her through the labor and delivery of her sweet baby girl. She didn’t really have any other family to be there, so a few of us missionaries decided to be there to support her and love her through it.

Availability is one of the core virtues of a CIC missionary. In the past few weeks, I have learned exactly what it means to live it out both in community and on the streets. Much like St. Paul, I had to be ready and willing to be all these things to all of these people for the sake of the Gospel.

It is my hope that the Lord will use these things for the salvation of others.

Mary Sullivan is a recent graduate of Wright State University with a degree in chemistry. She loves deep conversations, good movies, and Cincinnati chili.

The Greatest Gift We Can Give

Screen shot 2016-01-14 at 10.56.23 AMBy Mary Sullivan

“So…what is it that you do exactly?”

My family, friends, strangers and the men and women experiencing homelessness ask me this question often. It’s a valid question.

I decided to spend a year of my life living in Denver as a missionary after graduating college instead of getting a job and using my degree.

So, why did I choose this life? What do I do every day? My street team and I go out to the streets everyday and talk to homeless people. We go with nothing more than a backpack with some snacks, socks, gloves, rosaries, and other various things to give to our friends who are hungry and cold. We go knowing we can’t solve all their problems.

We go to become friends with them, to get to know them, to pray with them, to be a shoulder to cry on or an ear to hear their good news. We go to be a consistent, encouraging presence in the lives of people who lack this. We go to accompany people.

The idea of accompaniment is crucial in the life of a Christ in the City missionary. It’s what we came to do. It’s what we offer our friends on the street.

In a world that measures success by what we do and how much we accomplish, accompaniment may seem trivial. It certainly did to me at first. These people are hungry and cold and tired and homeless. What am I doing for them by just going around and talking to them?

A quote by one of the patrons of Christ in the City may help to shed some light on this question: “Material poverty you can always satisfy with material. The unwanted, the unloved, the uncared for, the forgotten, the lonely – this is much greater poverty,” said Mother Teresa.

Yes, our friends on the street are hungry and cold, but these are not the biggest problems they face. Often times, these problems are nothing more than symptoms of the brokenness in their lives. There are a number of shelters and agencies out there employing caseworkers to help people with their material needs.

We go out to address the loneliness. By accompanying people, by walking with them through whatever is going on in their lives, we can bring them hope and show them love. We can’t solve everyone’s problems, but we can always be there for them.

Recently, we have been walking with a friend through yet another relapse into alcoholism. He is facing eviction, which means he might end up back on the streets. I frantically went through all of the options and asked a friend what we’re going to do.

“We will continue accompanying him,” he said. It’s all we can do for him. In fact, it’s all we can do for any of our friends.

Mary Sullivan is a recent graduate of Wright State University with a degree in chemistry. She loves deep conversations, good movies, and Cincinnati chili.