The Tenderness of God; the Tenderness of the Poor

September 24, 2014 Length: 5:35

Fr. Roberto Ubertino, Founder and Executive Director of St. John the Compassionate Mission, demonstrates how part of the challenge and the beauty of living Orthodox mission is learning to accept the tenderness of God in our lives through the poor.


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Part of the challenge and the beauty of living Orthodox mission is to learn to accept the tenderness of the God in our lives through the poor. One evening I was taking a walk through the neighborhood of the mission. I observed families and friends walking together enjoying one another and that evening I was feeling particularly alone. Out of nowhere Lucy crossed the street towards me.

Lucy is a beautiful elderly woman who for a while lived at St. Xenia house, one of the houses of the mission that practices hospitality. She lived at St. Xenia house but had to leave because she couldn’t handle the alcohol. And since that time I believe that Lucy had been couch surfing, that is, sleeping here and there wherever she could find somebody who would welcome her for the night. Lucy that evening came up to me and asked me if she could walk with me. I consented but I thought in my heart this is not really what I need right now but I realize that we have to stretch.

So she takes me by the arm and here we are walking down Queen street arm in arm. At first I’m embarrassed, my thoughts were “this doesn’t look good,” she looks the part of a homeless person and people must wonder what is this man doing walking with a homeless woman arm in arm. But Lucy is particularly lovely this evening and talkative.

She shares about her struggles, even of her hurt of being asked to leave St. Xenia house. But she also shares how deeply the mission has helped her and her gratitude towards the mission for this.

Then as fast as she appears she decides that it’s time to go and bids me goodbye with a kiss on the cheek. That evening it was Lucy’s turn to minister to me, to serve me, in my poverty.

Another time I was walking on Queen street and this time I came across a couple. They were a First Nations couple who were living in the city, a most beautiful couple with a lot of dignity, that I have never seen completely sober. We greeted one another. They were panhandling. The man ordered me to stick out my hand. I obeyed. And soon enough he poured in them all the money he had received that day in his half eaten styrofoam cup. My first thought was “Oh this doesn’t look good, the executive director of the mission exhorting money from the homeless”. But I realized that in fact this was a moment of grace. The man said proudly to me “you always feed us, now it is our turn to help you.”

I accepted the money and thanked them with all my heart. And I recalled the words of Jesus when he said, “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” That evening a couple, never quite sober, had helped a priest and in turn were blessed by the One who loves them and calls them by name.