There is a story told of a time when St. Francis of Assisi was traveling across the country and he saw a leper standing by the side of the road. The man's face and body were covered with open sores. St. Francis was so moved with the man's pitiful condition that he jumped from his horse, ran to the man, and hugged him close to himself. St. Francis began to weep and pray for the leper. When he looked into the man's face, St. Francis was suddenly looking into the face of Jesus.
Let me share the words of Jesus found in The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25: "34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in. * 36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. * 37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? * 38When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? * 39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? * 40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
We need to be concerned about "the least of these."
There are so many people in our community that are struggling right now to make ends meet. Unemployment is at an all-time high. There are people who don't know where their next meal is going to come from; people who don't have a warm coat to put on when going out in the cold weather; people who don't know how they are going to pay the next month's rent.
There are those in our community whose bodies are riddled with disease; they have no insurance, and can't afford to see a doctor or pay for the medication they so desperately need.
Many of us have good jobs or are comfortable in retirement. We have pantries and refrigerators filled with food, and we never miss a meal. We walk into closets filled with clothes, much of which we never wear. And yet we cross paths on a daily basis with people in need.
Let me encourage you to do something this season for someone else. If you have more than other people you have enough to give. I encourage you to give and give generously.
There are many organizations here in Bedford County that are busy helping people in need throughout the year, and many that help families during the holidays. These organizations are focused on helping "the least of these." And the only way these organizations can continue to serve those in need is with our help. We can give of our resources, our time, our finances, and we can make donations of food, clothing, and toys.
Some of those worthwhile organizations are Good Samaritan, City Outreach Ministries, Community Outreach Partnership, Toys for Tots, Cross Shelter, Next Step Home, Half Way Home, Community Closet and Habitat for Humanity.
Veteran's organizations give generously here in Bedford County. Civic clubs and schools do their part.
Churches throughout Bedford County have food pantries and clothes closets, and members of congregations are ready to help those in need.
Jesus said that when we are helping "the least of these His brethren" we are helping Him.
St. Francis ran to the side of a man in need and in his arms that man turned into Jesus.
When we help others, we are truly serving Christ.
A man visited Mother Teresa's mission years ago in Calcutta, India, and he went out into the poorest streets of the worst slums in that big city with the ministry team. They spent the day caring for the neediest people they could find. When they returned to the mission that evening, Mother Teresa asked the man, "Well, did you see Jesus today?"
Jesus said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Please do what you can to help others this Christmas season. Do more than give gifts to your family and loved ones. Give something to a needy family or to your church or to one of the organizations I've mentioned.
Be concerned for "the least of these."
Doug Dezotell is the pastor of Mt. Lebanon UMC and Cannon UMC. He is a former staff writer for the Times-Gazette, and he is a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend to many. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.