Today’s scripture readings were very convicting for me. In Kings, Hilkiah finds the lost book of the law in the temple of the Lord. Spring cleaning I guess. Hilkiah gives the book to Shaphan who then reports to the king and reads some of the book. Upon hearing the contents of the book, the king realizes how far he has strayed from God’s commands and tears his garments in grief. The king and the people make a covenant before the Lord to follow him and observe his ordinances, statutes and decrees. The psalmist cries out to the Lord, “Incline my heart to your decrees and not to gain. Turn away my eyes from seeing what is vain: by your way give me life.” In Matthew, Jesus warns the disciples of false prophets. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. By their fruits you will know them.
Love your neighbor as yourself. I’ve read it a thousand times. Yeah, Jesus, I get it. Do I? Do I really get it? Do my fruits indicate that I am following Christ’s command? It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking I am the center of the universe. To think I’m more important than someone else. Why, I’m respectable. I have stuff. It is so easy to look down and become the judge of someone else.
Recently on a trip downtown I came upon a strange scene. It was late afternoon and raining. A young woman was trying to flag down passing cars. She was obviously distraught. She was wearing dirty, torn clothing. No one would stop. I pulled over to the curb and let her in the car. She looked like a homeless person. She was crying and said she needed a ride east. I thought it was strange that she didn’t have a specific destination and I told her I was headed west (which I was). She asked me if I had $11.20 for bus fare. I immediately became suspicious. $11.20? She’s probably just going to buy drugs or alcohol. I had $11.20, but I told her I had $5 that I could give her. By this time she had calmed down. She accepted the $5, smiled and said, “Thank you for acknowledging me as a human being.” She got out of the car and walked away. As I drove away I watched her in my rear view mirror. They say that when you give you always feel good. I did not feel good. In fact, I felt really bad. Great God in Heaven, what kind of world do we live in where someone has to say thank you for acknowledging them as a human being? How jaded have we become? What kind of human being am I? Me who claims to embrace the Jesuit ideal that every human being has value. Me who claims to be a follower of Christ. I was so ashamed of myself. At dinner that evening, I told this story and I started to cry. I never cry in front of my kids. I hated it. This time, though, I think it might have been okay to cry.
God places people in our lives. Sometimes for a life time, sometimes for a moment. Sometimes they are placed there as an opportunity for us to do something. Sometimes they are there to teach us something. I sure learned something. God used this woman as a reminder. Of who I am and what my purpose is. I am a child of God and my purpose is to serve God and man. I want to be a good tree that bears good fruit. If I can just keep that in focus, life will be good. My prayer today is for those less fortunate than myself.
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