“When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?’ He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
“For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water; and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
St. Elizabeth of Hungary lived an exemplary life of service to the poor. As a princess, she was married at a very young age to Ludwig IV of Thuringia (present-day Germany). They had four children, and Elizabeth had a hospital built in Wartburg Castle. She became well-known for giving alms and bread to the poor, and for attending to the sick. When Louis died in battle, Elizabeth continued her charitable works until her death at age 24.
Reading about St. Elizabeth makes me consider all that we can do for the poor. There is no shortage of people in want, and we needn’t look very far to know where to help. Is anyone in your own family out of work? Are they in need of food, clothes, furniture, or anything that you can give? The truly destitute accept charity, but often it is harder to help our own family members whose stubborn pride overrides their better judgment. We can always do something though, even if it is just sending a postcard. Or, to paraphrase the words of my favorite priest, “A basket of cookies goes a long way toward reconciliation with even the most stubborn people.”
There are many types of need: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. As mothers, we are literally filling all of these needs in our children every day. As women, we also serve the world at large with our unique talents and our generosity. In John 21:15, Jesus tells us to feed his lambs. He doesn’t say to give them a seven-course dinner on perfect china in a neatly swept house. He exhorts Peter to just do something. Feed people. Love them where they are. Love them even when they are hard to love. If we can’t feed people physically, we can feed their emotional needs with a smile, a hug, or maybe a quick text to let them know they are not forgotten.
And that brings up another point: Jesus does not say that we have to drop everything and spend 3 hours with our whiniest friend to help with her emotional drama. Sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to point people in the right direction and remind them that “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:17) We can get so wrapped up in other people’s needs that we neglect our own family and ourselves. Have you ever done this?
St. Elizabeth wows us with her charity. Imagine, the hands of a princess giving out food, or wrapping bandages around someone, and doing menial tasks in the blood and dirt of a medieval hospital! And yet, we are not all called to help in the kind of squalor and despair that Elizabeth or Mother Teresa of Calcutta faced. We can fill needs right here with the people that He, in His mercy, puts in our path. Now, I’m off to send my brother some cookies.
Reflection: Who is the neediest person in your life?
Reflection: What can you do for this person, this week?
Act: Prayerfully consider the time and resources that you have to help the needy, without neglecting your own self and your family.