My brief reflection from Give Us This Day earlier this week:
Whenever we take our children to Manhattan, we are confronted by the reality of “these least brothers” Jesus talks about in today’s Gospel. On subways and street corners they hold out battered cups in battered hands. Our kids look to us to gauge whether we should be doing something, and if not, why not? We tell them we can’t give to every street person. And even as we explain, we fight our own guilt over ignoring those with the least who live among those with the most.
On my last visit I kept running into one homeless person after another. Each time I’d look at my husband and say, “Is that one Jesus?”
Jesus seemed to be trailing me in what Blessed Mother Teresa called the “distressing disguise of the poor.” As I usually do, I eventually came face-to-face with someone who caused me to let down my New York City guard, in this case a woman in the doorway of a shop where I bought a red leather bag. I came out and offered her a few dollars. She smiled and said, “God bless you,” and the words of today’s Gospel hit me full force, and not in a good way.
What will be the standard by which I am judged? For the small kindness of throwing a few bills into a beggar’s paper cup? Or the incredible selfishness of buying myself one more unnecessary thing rather than buy that poor woman a sweater or a meal or even her own beautiful leather bag?