If you work well with a short to-do list, this is the gospel for you. With perhaps the exception of Jesus’ simple command of “Love one another as I have loved you,” the gospel of “When I was hungry you gave me to eat” provides the most succinct explanation of what we need to do to get to heaven.
But as simple as Jesus makes it sound, feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, or visiting the sick and imprisoned may not come easily. Families who live out this gospel explain that it is a conscious choice to do so.
Living the gospel through foster care. Jim and Judy, foster parents for the past 20 years to dozens of babies detained from the custody of their birth parents due to abuse and neglect, see this gospel as a direct call to action.
“This gospel takes us out of our comfort zone, which can be scary,” Judy says. “I believe we need to take the word of God seriously. Taking in foster children, clothing them, feeding them, giving them shelter has taught my children that the color of skin doesn’t matter—a hungry child is a hungry child. Jesus never told us to come in and sit down. His last words to us were, ‘Go and make disciples.’ And I think the way we do that is by first feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned.”
Bill, who with his wife has adopted two children from foster care, agrees. “Being a foster parent means that every need Jesus speaks of is delivered to your door,” he says. “Foster children arrive hungry and thirsty, with only the clothes on their back. Being foster parents has been both our most difficult and most rewarding response to the gospel. And we’re not so unusual—we’re just a regular family taking this gospel to heart. I think more people could consider foster care as a faith response.”
Living the gospel through service work. Jonathon and his wife Sarah live in an affluent suburb, far from the problems of poverty and homelessness in their city’s center.
“When we bought our house, we felt very torn,” Sarah says. “We wanted a safe place that our children could play and ride their bikes, but in choosing this community, sometimes we feel that our sons have no idea what it means for families to struggle. All the families around us have more than they need.”
To counter this, the two take their 8- and 10-year-old boys to serve at a meal program once a month and help sort clothes at a shelter at the beginning of each season. “The boys really love our days of service,” Sarah says. “I have also noticed that the needs of the poor are more top-of-mind for all of us than they used to be.”
Living the gospel through career choices.Josh and Jessica, a couple in their early 30s with two young children, both work for nonprofits in their city. The couple could be making tens of thousands more in salary by working for businesses rather than nonprofits. The two say that the mission of the organizations they work for is more important than the paycheck.
“I spend about 45 hours a week at work,” Josh says. “That’s a big chunk of my life—so I want to know that my job is in keeping with my values. My organization serves kids who are poor and come from difficult environments, and I know that my work has a direct impact on helping them get the skills they need to get out of poverty some day.”
By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for four years running. Here’s a sample issue.
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Image: ©istock/John Prescott