Anyone who lives in the city knows this experience – sometimes several times a day: you are walking along the street and you meet someone who is begging for money. The same can happen at major intersections when you are inching your way through traffic. It seems there are several responses: one, is to ignore the person – make like he/she is invisible and keep walking or driving – eyes ahead, you know what I mean. Another is to recognize the person by a greeting and a response, like saying, “No”, or else, “Sorry – —-”. Another is to stop or slow down and offer the person some money, often change from the bottom of a pocket or purse. Many find these events irritating or troubling. Sometimes, they set off a train of thought about how the person is likely going to use any money collected for drugs or alcohol.
How does the Christian face the blatant needs/requests of another person? I wish it was an easy question. I know I am approached very often walking around town. Sometimes, I wish I could walk on by, but I cannot. As uncomfortable and inconvenient as such moments might be, I am convinced that each person, no matter how down and out, is owed respect.
I realize each of us has a different response to these situations. There are cogent arguments that giving something creates a dependency and does not really address the issue. Others feel that the person in need might be simply lazy and ought to get a job to earn whatever is needed. Others might feel that it is rude and offensive to do such a thing and are turned away by that reason alone. Some feel the beggar is no more than a thief, preying on people’s consciences and circumstances and should not be encouraged, but punished.
In the end, I wonder if the motives of the person asking or begging are important at all. Why should they be? Why do I need to know them? Maybe they are legitimate and maybe not, who should be the judge of that? Does it really matter to the Christian?
During Lent, the Church teaches that one of the three pillars of our Lenten practices is almsgiving. Literally, this means giving something to the poor. Acts of simple charity flow from a choice one makes to see some need and respond in whatever way seems reasonable within one’s capacity. For most of us, this means writing a check to a worthy charity, and that is most certainly needed. Engaging in acts of kindness that are more of a challenge for us to perform also is suitable. For example, being nice to an annoying person or offering a traffic break to a careless driver could be admirable choices.
The Church and our tradition offer many teachings on how we are to care for one another and one of the most applicable in daily life is the “Golden Rule”. What if, for Lent, each of us treated one another in the way we would like to be treated?
March 8 ~ The Second Sunday of Lent
Today’s gospel presents the familiar story of the transfiguration.
Peter, James, and John were awe struck by the appearance of Jesus and by the words that the voice of God spoke:
“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
Listen to Him.
This message is for us.
Pray for the grace to be open to God’s word, to be transfigured into a courageous messenger of God’s love.