How many times have we all heard the phrase, “April showers bring May flowers?” To be fair, the more accurate saying in Butte County this year would probably be “March showers bring April flowers.” Either chronology suggests a month of new life bursting forth, blooming in all directions; a month of fresh apricots, cherries, rhubarb, and peas; the chance to finally enjoy the sunny bounty of a long rainy season. Hallelujah!
It also strikes me that May, as vibrant and joyful a month as it is, is loosely book-ended by days of solemn reflection on death and loss: at the end of April, we walk with Jesus to Golgotha where he dies a painful death on the cross, seemingly forsaken. And on Memorial Day on May 27th, we remember and honor those who gave their lives serving our country. The dissonance between these two periods of mourning and the joyful season of the rest of the month is striking—daffodils and eggs alongside death on a cross, a day to celebrate mothers not long before a day to mourn the fallen sons and daughters of our armed forces. Even as spring abounds all around us, we are truly immersed in the full circle of life this month.
Here at the Jesus Center, we witness the whole circle of life every day. We celebrate new life in every sense: newfound hope, new job opportunities, resurrected relationships, and even newborn babies who are now living with their moms at our St. Joseph Lily House for new and expecting mothers. And here at the Jesus Center, we witness death, too. First of all, practically all of our participants have suffered a brutal relational death at some point—a complete isolation from friends and family due to any combination of mental illness, addiction or broken relationships, which eventually led them to living on the streets. And we experience more than our share of physical death here, too: over this past year, we have lost Jesus Center participants to drug addiction, violence, and untreated chronic disease. Most recently, we lost a participant to jaw cancer after he refused treatment due to severe mental illness.
Did you know?
The homeless population is three times more likely to die than the general population, at an average age that is 25 years younger than those who are not homeless. When we are faced with these distressing facts, not to mention the many other statistics telling us that rates of homelessness are rising and barriers are more and more insurmountable, where do we find hope?
In theory, it’s simple: our hope rests in knowing that Christ is risen, and that we need not fear death because death never has the last word.
In practice, it’s a bit more complicated: our hope must rest in the faith that when we facilitate social resurrection to those experiencing homelessness by offering meals, housing, vocational training, and a sense of worth and purpose, we will contribute to their rebirth and renewal—and therefore, we will contribute to the rebirth and renewal of the rest of our community as well.
It is the belief that we have an incarnational savior, who gets in and gets his hands dirty that motivates and sustains us. These are fatiguing days in a community wrought with crisis and trauma. Yet, the gift of spring and the gift of the resurrection is that we can rejoice with the early church fathers and mothers saying:
Christ is risen, indeed.
Please join us in this proclamation and offer support for our work. Together we will bring life out of places that are seemingly dead. Hope from despair. Joy and life abound!