The fourth Corporal Work of Mercy is “Shelter the Homeless,” but in some older listings, it is “Harbor the Harbor-less.” What, essentially, does it mean?
Down through history, there have always been a certain number of people who were homeless, or, for those who were sailing but didn’t have a home port, they were “harbor-less.” Sometimes it was because people were in the process of moving to a new land, exploring new countries, or entire peoples might have been on the move. We can think of the Germanic peoples moving into what is today Germany, France and Great Britain, or the migration of the Scottish and Irish people (or very large segments of the populations of those countries) to North America and Australia.
Whenever people are in the process of moving, whether it be an individual, or a family, or an entire people, there is a Christian obligation, in charity, to treat the immigrant with charity, and to not allow them to starve to death or die from privation of shelter and the basic necessities of life.
There are people today, here in America, who seem to be against all immigration. But the truth is: almost all of us are the descendants of immigrants! And we, as believers, need to treat the immigrants with respect and according to their human dignity, as we would want to be treated ourselves.
How can you and I “shelter the homeless”? How about:
- Assisting with time and/or talents with a homeless shelter?
- Working in, or financially supporting, a soup kitchen?
- Taking in a young woman who is pregnant and without family support for having her baby, and providing her with a stable home for herself and her child?
- Contributing to a shelter for unwed mothers? Have any of you seen the beautiful movie “Gimme Shelter”?
- How do we treat the immigrant in our neighborhood?
- Do we ever speak kindly to the homeless man or woman who we pass on the way to work? Do we offer them a sandwich or buy them a meal?
Please feel free to offer your own thoughts in the comments section below. There are so many ways in which we, as followers of the Lord Jesus, can put this Corporal Work of Mercy into practice in our own lives!