Who do I see?
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20b
It’s a common scene in the inner-city of Hamilton, ON, where when you stop your car at a red light, a person would approach your vehicle with an empty Tim Hortons cup asking for a change. What do you see, or rather, I should ask, who do you see when this happens? Do you see annoyance, laziness, a misfit in life? Or rather, a person with their story of broken relationship, some physical or mental illness and/or unfortunate circumstance in life? Do you see a person’s dignity, a poor person who is blessed?
Many years ago, when I was studying for the priesthood, I was traveling with one of my colleagues from a pastoral experience in one of our Oblate parishes. It happened at the train station in Katowice, Poland, while we were purchasing tickets for our journey. A young man stayed close to the cashier window; he looked dirty and had an unpleasant smell. His wild look and glossy eyes showed that he was under the influence. In one hand he carried a plastic cup and silently begged for a few coins. A young woman stood in front of me in the line. Looking the other way, she showed everybody that this situation didn’t suit her. She looked like she was thinking, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people; especially like that drug addict.” Finally, when she bought her ticket, she gave him the change that she received and said, “Have this and buy drugs for yourself!” How full of disgust and disgrace was that gesture! And I thought, “We can’t treat others like that! Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity!”
In the beginning of his ministry, St. Eugene de Mazenod showed that there is another way to do to approach the poor. We don’t know people’s stories; we don’t know why they ended up in miserable places in life. But what we know is that they are our brothers and sisters, because Jesus said so: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20b
We can read in Eugene’s notes from the homily he gave in Provencal at the church of the Magdalene on Ash Wednesday, March 3, 1813: “Come now and learn from us what you are in the eyes of faith. Poor of Jesus Christ, afflicted, wretched, suffering, sick, covered with sores, etc., all you whom misery oppresses, my brothers, dear brothers, respected brothers, listen to me. You are God’s children, the brothers of Jesus Christ, heirs to his eternal kingdom, chosen portion of his inheritance; you are, in the words of St. Peter, a holy nation, you are kings, you are priests, you are in some way Gods…”
So next time, when you stop at the red light and someone approaches you with an empty cup, just simply ask yourself, “WHO do I see?”
By Jarek Pachocki, OMI
OMI Lacombe Canada – Vocation Director