As we enter July here in Australia we enter one of the coldest months of the year. One of the saddest memories I have of volunteering for St Vincent De Paul Night Patrol is arriving at Central Station park on a -1 degree July Night many years ago. The wind was blowing, and it was freezing. At 11.30 pm we were to pack up and go home to a warm bed and shower. But one of the last visitors was a couple with a stroller. They had a young child pushing her along. Maybe 2 years old. After a hot milo and some fruit which we had left, they decided to spend the night in the park in freezing conditions. A family of 3. My heart when out to them.
Recently here in Australia, a young 2 year old refugee Tharnicaa Murugappan was diagnosed with sepsis and pneumonia last year. She was born on Australia’s Christmas island. Initially her parents were refused by the Australian Government entry to where she was flown to for treatment. Only until a few days ago, the government changed their minds. However, the government made it clear that Tharnicaa Murugappan and her family were not staying. Even though a rural town Bioela in Western Australia was pleading with the government for them to stay. They need workers, and Tharnicaa’s own father had the skills they were after. Why? Why? Why? My heart when out to them.
I have been teaching now for 15 years. In my own homeroom I have been asking students to bring in items for donation every day for homeless people. Every day the students do not bring in items. But, I see them using their devices, their phones. It makes me so angry that not one has brought anything in. Often on the way to our school there are homeless people on our streets. The students see them. Yet they do not respond despite my calls again and again for them to help. My heart goes out to the many faces of homeless.
But, who am I to judge?
A few years later back on Night Patrol we visited a park behind St Mary’s Cathedral in Sydney one hot summers night in summer. An ordination of a young priest had just taken place with over 1000 people in attendance. As the function ended streams of people started to walk past. One by one they walked by. I was blown away that no one said “hello”. Here we are feeding God’s people, the people on the streets of Sydney, and yet we cannot even get one “hello”. But rather I sensed fear and a hurrying to go home. Towards the end one single old priest who we knew came up to us and said “hello”. He knew us. He knew who we were. This single old priest gave me hope.
Jesus would often scold the Pharisees and other religious zealots in his time some 2000 years ago. People who were more concerned with doing what is right, following the law and playing it safe. If we are to truly enter the Kingdom of God, we need to begin with an open heart. A heart which is willing to step out of our comfort zone and build relationships with the broken hearted. God is in the poor, refugees, and homeless just as much as any one else. But, how do we do that in a world so caught up on itself? As St Paul says “to put on the mind of Christ” (Philippians 2:5–8 and 1 Corinthians 2:16). But when Jesus was asked the question “what is the greatest commandment?” he responds “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart”….here is a clue…..what does our heart say? We must start with the heart.
Love is the doorway to God. Love in action. Love that does not see the outcome. Love that sees through the darkness of our own lives. Faith. Love that gives hope to those in need.