Posted December 30, 2009:
Did You Really Mean It, Lord?

by Kathy Snider.

The author, a former working guest of Madonna House, is a lay missioner in a remote village in the Ixcan jungle of Guatemala.

Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear…. (Mt 6:25). How can I proclaim this scripture passage to people who are struggling every day to put food on the table, I asked God.

I was preparing a teaching for a pastoral visit with the women of San Antonia Tzeja, a Q’qechi village an hour and a half by foot, and had just read those words in my Bible.

"Does this passage apply to their situation?" I continued. "How can they not worry when they’re constantly up against poverty and injustice and sometimes lack even the basic necessities of life?"

I read ahead, and I saw that the chapter ends with an exhortation and a promise. Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides (Mt 6:32-33).

I continued to wrestle within but finally concluded, "Well, it’s not my Word after all. It’s God’s."

A few days later, I ran into Juan, one of the lay leaders of the parish in San Antonio Tzeja. Pulling me aside, he said, "Hermana, we have a need I want to tell you about."

He proceeded to tell me about Matilde, a twenty-year-old woman who was recently widowed. At age 24, her husband of only five months died unexpectedly of an untreated illness.

Mathilde, her husband, mother, and sister had all lived together in a humble house that had been lent to them for a limited time. Following the untimely death, the women were asked to leave their home.

So in addition to their shock and grief and the loss of their male provider, they faced homelessness.

With no other family members in the area, they were desperate. The women did the only thing they knew to do. They prayed.

Meanwhile, during a prayer meeting, Juan and other members of their church heard a word from the Lord: "Reach out to the poor and needy who have nothing to live on and share what you have with them."

Taking these words to heart, they collected some corn, the Mayan food staple, and gave it to the three women, but they knew they would need to do more. What about the women’s lack of housing?

They decided to pull together their resources and build them a house. A small plot of land was donated and construction began. However they were short of money for the lamina, the tin sheets needed for the roof. Juan asked me, "Would you be able to buy the lamina for the roof?"

Moved by the response of this faith community to the widow’s need, I contacted the missionary organization I belong to and got approval for the needed funding. We set a date to meet in Playa Grande, the biggest town in the area, for the purchase of the lamina.

I said to Juan, "When I go to San Antonio for a meeting with the women, I’d like to meet Mathilde and see the house. Would you accompany me?" He happily agreed.

Praying during those days before the San Antonio visit, I thought about Juan and his companions, who are poor themselves, helping the poor widow. I returned to the Gospel of Matthew, this time going to the Last Judgment in chapter 25:34-35:

Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Receive the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink… naked and you clothed me ….

I realized that these verses are connected to those in chapter 6, and it hit me …. Sometimes it is through us that God answers someone else’s prayer.

My teaching in San Antonio went well. Mathilde and her mother and sister were present. After the session, Juan and I, Mathilde, her sister and mother, and a group of the women walked the twenty minutes to where the new, unfinished house stood.

The frame was up and covered with a tin roof. Following a prayer of blessing over the women and the house, Mathilde came to me with tears in her eyes. "I don’t know how you found out about us," she said, "but I am so thankful to God that you did. I don’t know how to thank you for the roof over our heads."

I was deeply touched by her words and tears flowed as we hugged.

Lord, give me the faith to believe and the grace to remember that all the words of your Gospel are for all God’s people and for every situation.


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