15th Sunday after Pentecost
The front page of The Gazette, our Montreal daily paper, last Thursday (Sept. 16, 1998), carried a picture of three beggars in Bangla Desh standing in water that rises above their waists. The country is suffering from a terrible flood that has caused many deaths and has severely strained relief supplies coming into the area. Two of the beggars are blind men. The third is a teenage girl. She holds out her empty bowl.
What do we think of when we see such pictures? Do we notice them? Are we so used to seeing tragedies and catastrophes on the news that we just pass them by? Do we pause to offer thanks for the comfort and security in which we live? Do we say a prayer for the afflicted? Do we agonize over what could be done to alleviate their suffering? Do we ask how God could allow it?
Should we feel some guilt? Are we aware of the Saint who said that the extra that we hoard is theft - since we are keeping it from the poor who need it to live? Guilt is as useful as an alarm clock. We hate to hear it if we are sleeping comfortably, but if we keep on sleeping our life will creep away from us and we will die - and so will those who depend on us.
If we admit to a feeling of guilt, can we do anything about it? We are not in a position to directly influence the lives of those suffering more than half a planet away, although there are relief agencies we can and ought to give to help. But everyone and everything is linked in the universe. There are people we can help right close to home. And that helps everyone everywhere.
As a boy, St. Theophanes, Confessor and Faster, whom we remember on the Church Calendar the day after the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, saw a naked child freezing on the street. He took off his own clothes and wrapped the child in it and so warmed and restored it to life. He went home naked and his parents demanded where his clothes were. To which he replied: "They're clothing Christ!"
With a little imagination it is possible to see the three beggars of Bangla Desh as an Icon - an Icon of the Trinity. God gives us the opportunity to reflect His generosity by giving. And He thirsts to receive our kindness. What we do to our beggars - and at times we are all beggars - we do to Him.