I will start off with another interesting guest at morning Mass story. Instead of one of the priests always reflecting on the Gospel, different staff members are assigned to "preach." This Tuesday, I gave the homily, focusing on the passage from the Gospel of Matthew about not putting "Pearls before swine." With help from some online references, I explained how we are called to recognize what is holy and valuable before us and not be like swine who trample on everything. Additionally, I explained that, though Jesus calls us not to judge, He wants us to be discerning and not mistreat something valuable by giving it to someone who will disrespect or abuse it. I used examples of giving money to a known drunk at the center, or giving the Eucharist to a non-Catholic. For an inexperienced preacher, I thought I did a pretty good job (actually it was probably just the Spirit doing a good job through me).
Turns out my homily had a practical application within fifteen minutes. We were receiving the Eucharist when a guest in a cowboy hat struts ups, proclaims "by the power of the Blood of Christ," and sticks out his hand for the Cup. The staff member was initially startled, but then explained to him that he could not receive because he had not prayed with us through Mass. She added that she could further explain the theology later. However, he simply stomped away, called us all hypocrites. and later tried to start a fight with another guest. Through it all, I could not help but smile at the fact that my reflection had been almost prophetic, since the Eucharist (pearl) had not been given to someone who was not respecting it (swine). Doctor of the Church, Here I come!
A totally separate incident this week also got me thinking. I do laundry on Monday mornings. Revolting does not even begin to describe the typical smell that emanates from the clothes (and explains why people are so desperate to sign up for one of the ten laundry spots each day). This past Monday, I received two bags of laundry from a guest: one overflowing with dirty clothes, and the other containing only five pairs of socks that the guest wanted bleached. Since we cannot mix guest's clothes, the ten socks had to be their own load. Anywhere else, I would have seen this ten sock load as a waste, but not here. Having his socks bleached is probably the closest thing to a luxury this man will have this week.
This got me thinking about necessities versus wants. Guests will often thank us for our services, which is a product of our culture. While gratitude is certainly polite, it insinuates that we have gone out of our way to do something unnecessary. However, we are filling needs, which means what we do is necessary, not optional. These people need to be fed, clothed, and bathed; it would be a sin not to and Matthew 25 suggests as much: "Whatever you do to the least of my people, you do unto me." People are not obligated thank us for going out of our way, because we are doing the necessary, even if its just bleach to get a few socks extra clean.
A second to last thought: dealing with guests here can be a bit trying at times, whether they want to bend rules, or are just plain impatient, obnoxious, drunk, belligerent etc. It all got put in perspective today when I went out to lunch with some Notre Dame Alumni Club members and the other 3 ND summer service students in Phoenix. Andrew is with me here at Andre House, but the two girls are working at Maggie's Place, a collection of homes that provide shelter for pregnant women. As rewarding as their experience is, I could not imagine living in a house with multiple temperamental pregnant women. I mean I have heard one is difficult enough, but 6? God bless those girls!
Final note: I parallel parked a car today so well, I almost took a picture!