By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published June 6, 2013
friend of mine fell into hard times. He cannot afford a car. He lives in a homeless shelter and is looking for work. The last time I saw him, he was hopeful that he had landed a job. So things are looking up for him.
He gives a lot of time to his parish, volunteering for different committees and doing what he can to be of help. He was telling me about a committee he joined, a social action committee. The group had its monthly meeting. The people discussed big problems—world hunger, the gap between the rich and poor, illiteracy, world peace concerns. All heady topics and ones that resist fast and sure solutions.
The meeting ended, and he looked around and asked if anyone could drive him home. He was hesitant to shell out money for a cab, money that was hard to come by. No one offered him a ride. They all had things they had to do, and a ride in the wrong direction would cramp their plans, dent their schedules. So my friend thanked them anyway and called a cab.
He made a wry comment to me about the feverish concern for global issues and how some people cannot see the opportunities right in front of their noses.
Jesus does not take on big issues. He does not offer a plan to feed everyone, to establish world peace, to provide shelter for all, to make everybody healthy and happy. It is instructive to follow his gaze through the pages of the New Testament. He looks about him and notices certain people. The poor widow who gave all she had by giving a penny. The adulterous woman who had run out of options and hope. The woman who touched his cloak and was healed.
Jesus saw and learned something about God through these people. And so he taught us, encouraged us to see one simple truth. That God favors the lowly, the helpless, the desperate. God can and does do wonders with the small and seemingly abandoned people of life. The plan of God not only includes them—it enshrines them. It is a plan that we seem to forget about when we make the mistake of thinking that the huge problems of the world are ours to figure out and fix. For then we tend to forget our responsibility to the near, the small, the needy—kind of like not giving a guy a ride home because it does not fit into the big plan.
In a way, it ends up being a near fatal dose of benign neglect. A social concerns committee winds up its meeting. Maybe checks are sent out. The bases are covered. The food bank is replenished. But a cab is driving away, and in it rides a man who cannot afford it. And something of God rides with him.