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Christ of the Breadlines

(Fritz Eichenberg)

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah Is 58:1-9a

Thus says the Lord GOD: Cry out full-throated and unsparingly, lift up your voice like a trumpet blast; Tell my people their wickedness, and the house of Jacob their sins. They seek me day after day, and desire to know my ways, Like a nation that has done what is just and not abandoned the law of their God; They ask me to declare what is due them, pleased to gain access to God. “Why do we fast, and you do not see it? afflict ourselves, and you take no note of it?” Lo, on your fast day you carry out your own pursuits, and drive all your laborers. Yes, your fast ends in quarreling and fighting, striking with wicked claw. Would that today you might fast so as to make your voice heard on high! Is this the manner of fasting I wish, of keeping a day of penance: That a man bow his head like a reed and lie in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed breaking every yoke; Sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own. Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!


“This, rather, is the fasting I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke;…..sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless.”

After all the commuters left, a swarm of homeless usually took refuge and shelter at the train station until dawn.

He was sitting there by himself at the train station on the bench when I returned.

I was in hot pursuit of my camera which I had left at the station. All my pictures of my visit to the DC area would be lost if I did not get my hands on it. Yes, no cellphone at that time.

And there was sitting this homeless man at the very spot I knew I left the camera. First regrettable thought of mine was that he had taken it.

Next regrettable move was asking in a semi- accusatory tone if he had seen my camera.

He pointed to the security office and suggested I look there. I was still suspicious he had stolen it and that he was only trying to get rid of me. I rushed to the security office not quite sure what to do next if they did not have it.

Yes, security had it, xrayed it and checked out the camera to be sure it was not a bomb. With humility, but with my social memories in hand, I went back to the homeless man to thank him and offer him $20 as a gesture of my gratitude.

He never looked up nor looked at me but waved me away, shaking his head that he did not want the money.

At this very same moment the homeless man was transformed into the image of Christ standing in the breadline.

For just a few seconds....

When I told my friends about my encounter with the man, we looked for him but he no longer was sitting on the bench. He was nowhere to be found.

Everyday we have the opportunity to do good or go our own way. Everyday Jesus reminds us that He is always with us—with all of us. We are given the opportunity to put evil thoughts away, not speak bitter words, fast from worldly possessions and seek Him in those he sought, found and died for.

What shame on my part passing judgment just because he was homeless.


Today meditate on how we have treated our brothers and sisters. Have we thought of their sufferings, their crosses? Do we cater to the well dressed, the rich or powerful and leave by the wayside those who can not nor can no longer help themselves.

"A heart contrite and humbled, O God, you will  not spurn."
(Psalm 51)

God Bless You.


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