Sunday, October 09, 2011

"... The least of these my brethren..."

I was in the city this week doing a bit shopping when on the way to the store I was heading to, I saw a young-looking man (mid 20s maybe) dressed in black sitting behind a cardboard placard that had written something to the effect of "help the homeless". After analysing the signs and signifiers it was safe to say that this young man was homeless and wanted help. I kept on walking and avoided making eye contact, made much easier by the fact I was wearing sunglasses at the time. I judged. I assumed. I fought every urge of mine that I had at that time to walk over and hand the man some money.

I thought about how this young man was in that situation to begin with. I thought about what he may or may not do with the money if I was to give him some. I was filled with disgust and pity at the same time. I actually felt quite ashamed of myself. I fought to suppress these sudden feelings of guilt and kept on walking. Fortunately by the time I got to the shop I was heading to I was well and truly distracted and for a while forgot all about the young man sitting behind the cardboard placard. I was, however, to confront that setting again.

On the way back to my car I have but no choice to take the same route because there are road works taking place at the same time (perhaps this was preordained!). I got within a dozen or so paces of this young man again before I felt that urge once more; that urge to give. Knowing I had some money in my wallet and knowing it was probably the most I could do at the time, I walked over to the guy, gave him the cash and told him as sincerely as I could be, "Take care of yourself, okay? Take care of yourself." He responded by saying, "Thank you, man. God bless you".

Walking away I fought thoughts of feeling like I had done my "good deed" for the day and "Oh, aren't I good for helping that guy out?" I didn't want to fill myself with such prideful and self-praising feelings. Instead I kept repeating to myself mentally an adage that I had learned some years ago, and a verse of scripture that I often use in the classroom when teaching my students about love of neighbour and caring for the needy:

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." - Edmund Burke

"And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'" - Matthew 25:40

We must not fail to see Christ in everyone around us, especially the lowly. When Christ taught the parable of the Good Samaritan in reply to the question, "Teacher, who is my neighbour?" the answer we get is this: your neighbour is everyone around you, and especially those you would least think about.

To see Christ in your neighbour is to cast aside your pride and fill your heart with charity; the love God has for us.


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