On Friday mornings, after receiving a food voucher after Mass at the church across the street, an amazing and diverse group of folks come over to our Emmaus Community chapel for some conversation, coffee, tea and home-baked goods.

Depending on various factors there can be between 3 and 20 who show up. This morning, there were about a dozen. 

As we were talking, I shared with the group that our son had to go to the hospital the night before with a possible hernia.   An Egyptian woman who (by her own description) has “Christian, Muslim and Jewish roots” – suggested in broken English and with a big smile that we must pray to Jesus for my son.

“Hold hands!”  She strongly encouraged us – and I want you all to pray!

Around the circle there were several First Nation folk (some Christian, others not), folks from a variety of cultures and countries and linguistic groups, and several street-involved and working-strata Caucasian folks – as well as two of us who are part of Emmaus Community.

Indeed, as instructed, we all took turns praying for Zion.   Yes – all of us did pray – all in our different ways -even if it was a quick and reluctant “Uh, thank you God” from the most doubt-filled and/or shy among us.

* * *

Over the years. I’ve become uncomfortable when churches or other institutions of relative privilege use the language ‘outreach’ to describe our activities with those on the margins of society; as if to suggest or invoke the image that it is: ’we – the ones  at the centre are reaching out and have something to give to you, the poor people’ (implying, at the same time, that the poor are not us).

Thinking of the Beatitudes and of Matthew 25, I’ve often wondered if Jesus’ notion of ‘Church’ isn’t the other way around – that it is we who have our buildings, our cars, our mortgages, tax deductions & our paycheques are actually the ones who need the reaching out to; that in God’s economy, the circle of outreach is actually the opposite of what we think it is.

* * *

During our Friday circles it sometimes gets really real:  People whose kids are in state care or who survived the wounding of Church-State residential school system share quite openly.  Some are on substances of various kinds (this is at 9:30 in the morning).  Some have been healed, are in the process of healing – or need healing. Some are amazing and inspiring community leaders.  Most are deeply articulate. Some are starting Bible studies in their under-housed situations. Some are churchy. Many are not.

In some ways we aren’t all that different, though one can’t deny the varying levels of privilege and status in the room.

My experience over the years living as a Catholic Worker, working at places like the Dale (Parkdale Neighbourhood Church), hanging out with the good folk at The Mustard Seed or at Emmaus’ Café on the Way – and then here, this morning, has solidified this belief that Jesus was being quite literal when he suggested that it is the poor (Luke’s gospel) and the poor and Spirit (Matthew’s gospel) that are indeed the blessed ones – and that Jesus doesn’t always come as the Church outreach worker, priest, pastor, deacon, social justice activist or missionary – but perhaps most often as the one seeking a drink of water (or coffee & tea) and food (or banana bread, as was the case this morning).

One doesn’t want to over simplify or get too sentimental about it all (there is a huge danger here) – but I also can’t deny that time and time again I have been led closer to God, closer to Christ by the witness of those who society and Church sees as the one needing to be outreached to.

Forgive me if it sounds blasphemous, but this morning, Jesus was an Egyptian Muslim-Jewish-Christian woman to me.

And this morning it was me – the one of relative privilege – the churchy one, the outreacher-type – who needed to be reached out to.  I (and we) needed the prayers not just from my fellow churchy people who know how to do it and get it right – but from those in the circle who are perceived by the ones in society as the ones needing ‘outreach’ to.

Perhaps this morning – as the lines of ‘outreach’ were blurred, the Reign of God was indeed near – perhaps for a moment, the Kingdom/Kin-dom was here.  Indeed – blessed are the poor and the poor in Spirit!

How blessed are we sipping coffee and praying together on a just another Friday morning.