Father Mike's Message

      Can you imagine if we were invited to a dinner and when we arrived we looked around at those in attendance and they weren’t what we were expecting? Some were poor people. Some were people with physical disabilities in wheelchairs or walking with canes because of blindness. Some people had special needs because of Autism, Downs Syndrome, Muscular Dystrophy, Cerebral Palsy, or ALS. Some looked a little strange to us, some seemed to be acting a little strange, some were vocalizing, some were rocking back and forth seemingly in their own world, and some were just sitting quietly staring into space. What would we do in such a situation? Would we excuse ourselves or just slip out as quickly as possible? Would we be upset that someone would dare invite us to such a strange gathering as if we belonged with “those” people?

Would we be afraid? Would we be embarrassed? Or, would Jesus speak to us, somewhere deep in our hearts, and spur us into action? Would we then go and greet and welcome those who seemed so different from us? Would we see past their disability and see the child of God that they are? Could we put aside our preconceived notions and recognize that they are happy and able to enjoy themselves too, just like us?

I know that some people will be shaking their heads and saying that a situation like that is never going to happen. People probably said the same thing to Jesus when Jesus told his host, who invited him to a meal, to “invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind” instead of friends or relatives or wealthy neighbors. If we think that inviting people with special needs to a meal will never be the case, in our world today, we would be wrong. Sure, it’s not the regular occurrence that it should be but there are still wonderful people and groups that make it happen as Jesus suggested.

In fact, every few months a dinner and dance happens, at Our Lady of  Divine Providence Church, in Metairie, that looks exactly like what I described. The Order of Alhambra, a Catholic Organization, has that very goal as their charism and they do a fantastic job of it putting on these wonderful celebrations. And the dinners and dances are usually packed with about 150 to 200 people. There’s great food at no charge to those with special needs or their caregivers. Sometimes the food is donated and sometimes Alhambra has to purchase the food but the event goes on just the same. Desserts are donated and volunteers serve the meal. There is a DJ who volunteers his time and when the music starts the dance floor is always full. There are usually face painters there too.

But Jesus did not just call the Order of Alhambra, the Knights of Columbus, and other organizations that help people with special needs, to handle that ministry alone. Jesus called us all to be of service to our brothers and sisters, which includes those who are in a greater need of our support. I pray that we are not afraid to answer that call.

Of course if we went to such an event and we only saw people with disabilities then that would be a shame. But, if we went to such an event and we saw children of God, with happy, smiling faces, then we might just be on the right track at seeing all of God’s children as God sees all of us. And it wouldn’t matter if we were invited, to such an event, because, if we were, we would go - just to be with, and enjoy the company of, our brothers and sisters in Christ. And it wouldn’t matter what they looked like, or the level of their abilities, because, guess what? When they look at us it doesn’t matter to them what we look like or the level of our abilities.

 

 

"Aaaamen!"
God bless you,
Father Mike Mitchell