Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Seeing the poor

It's hard knowing what one should be when seeing the poor and when they ask for help.

The other night an older man knocked at the outer door to my house and asked for something. I explained to him that I don't give out money and then thought if I had any food to share with him. At that point I couldn't think of anything I could share with him. I didn't have any fruit and I forget that I had crackers. And so he left.

I felt bad, and still do, especially reading James 2: 15-16

If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day and one of you says, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well, but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it?
I think I will try to always have something in the cupboard so that I can share.

And then I came across a photo that struck me - it's the de facto president at Mass on Monday in Tegucigalpa. I think it was a Mass in the basilica of the Virgin of Suyapa, the patroness of Honduras, where four of the presidential candidates were present. (The Wall Street Journal's description states: "IN THE AISLE: Honduras' interim president Roberto Micheletti looked at a homeless woman sitting in an aisle during Mass in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Monday....")

According to a news report, at the end of the Mass Micheletti told the four candidates:
 "I ask you, four extraordinary men, that if God wills to place you in the post [of president] that you will never try to place yourselves above the law of God and the law of humans, that we dedicate ourselves to this Honduras which needs so much."

But then there's this passage from James 2: 2-4:

For if a man with gold rings on his fingers and in fine clothes comes into your assembly, and a poor person in shabby clothes also comes in, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say. "Sit here, please, while you way to the poor one, "Stand there," or "Sit at my feet," have you not made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil designs?"
We are all judged and found wanting by the Word of God.

Revised slightly November 25, 2009, 10:09 am

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's a great post, Brother John.

I'm not sure that I find the sayings of James so difficult, but perhaps that's because I read them a little bit differently. James 2:2-4 is guidance for the heart, which is the most important thing. The sinful aspect of neglecting the poor is rooted differentiation. Therefore, in dealing with people, the instruction is to be whole, be the same person for everyone. This is actually much easier than trying to be many different people!

Once one has ceased to differentiate, the sin of the heart is absolved, but the sin of the hand may not be. By resolving to keep something available, you have recognized that even if one treats everyone equally, it is much less likely that you will meet a rich man begging than a poor man... and the poor man's need will be much more immediate.

I actually do give people money-- sometimes. I try to examine each case with unbiased eyes and to follow the guidance of the Spirit. This has served me well. Once, in the downtown of a major city, I found myself on the streets after the hours when it was safe. Two street people, one a hapless soul and the other his master, spotted me, and the master sent his servant over to shake me down. I was afraid that I was going to suffer harm.

But, thankfully, I stayed in the moment. When the man said, "Give me some money," I asked him "How much do you need?" After a moment of amazement, he said, "Fourteen cents." Thankfully, I had exact change, which I counted out... and moved on before the other fellow decided to ask for a second helping.

Being there in each moment, judging not by social class but by the needs of the person one is in the presence of, seems to me to be what God wants of us. It's difficult to trust Him so much, but He seems to take care of us fools who do so.