Our next subway stop is 161 Street. Yankee Stadium. The Bronx. As a baseball lover and apologist, I know the stadium is a cathedral of sort, where the ghosts of baseball's finest haunt the outfield while the contemporaries attempt to be remembered by the eyes and hearts of young fans. I am no doubt enamored by the view of this modern temple, which comes into clear view as our train comes to a stop. A group consisting of 6 students from Indiana and I are heading to our next serving site.
We are late, coming from a food pantry which we quickly grew to love. The invitation to serve those who need the most basic provisions is welcomed among us. And so we joined - in part - with the seasoned volunteers and staff of a Harlem food pantry to provide for our fellow humans, not fully knowing we are too the ones in need.
We rush off the crowded train. Immediately we join the buzzing of the electricity created from the fans going to the game. As we zip through the crowd to our next stop, a feeling of nervousness hits. In the shadows of the stadium lies a soup kitchen and food pantry: The Momentum Project. This particular organization provides resources for people living with HIV/AIDS. Often, these individuals are pushed to the brink of society. These neighbors are what the gospels would consider a 'least of these.'
A dynamic analogy from the gospels would be the lepers and outcasts which Jesus took the time to eat dinner with and shared in the breaking of the bread. He risked his reputation and his social status to help them feel their own humanity. As we serve the HIV/AIDS patients chicken and rice, our hope is that they can find pieces of their humanity in our smiles, greetings, and love. As we hand them vegetables, canned food, and cartons of dry milk that make up their food pantry bags, we quickly forget the stigmas surrounding those people; for they are now fellow brothers and sisters, friend and neighbor.
If not us, I think to myself while walking back to the subway station, then who will serve these people? This is not a question of arrogance, as if the Church is the only institution capable of serving. No, this is a question reflecting the nature of the gospel. If we, as believers, do not pour ourselves and step into the shadows of modern temples and urban structures, embracing the darkness with the light then the gospel is nothing more than a self-help philosophy. The written Gospels' collective testimony proclaims the needs of the poor, downtrodden, mistreated, and oppressed are to be met by those who believe in the Christ. If not Us - if the Church is not fighting for the rights of the "often-forgotten", risking its popularity for the sake of being the hands and feet, and breaking bread with overlooked and lonely people - then who will?
- Kieffer, NYC Summer 2014 City Host