"...for freedom and the bread of Heaven."

Tonight our discussion will include reflections on Dostoyevsky's "Grand Inquisitor," especially this passage, where the Inquisitor challenges Jesus on how he responded to the devil's first temptation in the desert:

"Judge Thyself who was right--Thou or he who questioned Thee then? Remember the first question; its meaning, in other words, was this: 'Thou wouldst go into the world, and art going with empty hands, with some promise of freedom which men in their simplicity and their natural unruliness cannot even understand, which they fear and dread--for nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom. But seest Thou these stones in this parched and barren wilderness? Turn them into bread, and mankind will run after Thee like a flock of sheep, grateful and obedient, though for ever trembling, lest Thou withdraw Thy hand and deny them Thy bread.' But Thou wouldst not deprive man of freedom and didst reject the offer, thinking, what is that freedom worth if obedience is bought with bread? Thou didst reply that man lives not by bread alone...

"Thou didst reject the one infallible banner which was offered Thee to make all men bow down to Thee alone--the banner of earthly bread; and Thou hast rejected it for the sake of freedom and the bread of Heaven."

And isn't this true? Jesus insisted on treating people as children of God, not simply animals to be fed and sheltered. This greatly complicated his mission, and he was ultimately rejected because of it, yet it was his central purpose and he never diverted from it no matter what the cost.

This also makes the work here much more complicated and confusing. It's straightforward enough how to feed and house people. But how to draw them out as children of God?

Often it seems like suffering people have come to see themselves as animals struggling merely to survive, and it's difficult not to take that same view of them. Yet I believe there is more in them, even at their lowest point. Yesterday I remembered one thing that the woman kept repeating in her despairing cries the other night. "...And no one cares. No one cares." That's not the complaint of an animal. It's agony of a person who seeks love, who seeks God.

I hope I demonstrated in a small way that night that someone does care. And I hope I can continue to care, though the suffering seems overwhelming and the needs keep coming. Dorothy Day preached that we should try to see Christ in every needy person. I don't believe in that. But I think it may be possible to see a person in every needy person, and care about those persons, encouraging them to discover themselves as children of God.