Sr. Phyllis Jaszkowiak
July 1, 2018
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
My sister told me this story. In April, while I was gone, she flew to Portland for a professional meeting, and decided to take the MAX since it stopped right in front of her hotel. At one of the stops, along the way, a woman got on and asked if she could sit next to her. My sister said yes. Then the woman began to tell her story of being alone and not knowing what to do or where to go for help. Her husband had died two years ago and her boyfriend had left her and she was all alone and not knowing what to do and could she help her, wringing her hands the entire time. My sister, who is tech savvy, found the address of the Portland Rescue Mission and that the MAX stopped close by. So she told the woman she would take her there. They got to the stop, found the Rescue Mission, but were in the basement and had to climb the stairs to reach the office. The woman complained that she didn’t think she could climb the stairs, but with the encouragement and help of my sister they made it to the office. However, that office was for the men. So they had to cross the street to the women’s office. There the woman was warmly welcomed and taken in with the promise of help. Then my sister had to find her hotel which is another story.
As she was telling this story, I thought, ‘Oh, oh, a scam.’ I have been scammed during my life, so I am wary of people’s stories like this one. However, this wasn’t a scam, but someone who really needed help. My sister told her son, who had lived in downtown Portland a few years, and he scolded her, “Mom, you don’t help people in Portland like that. You could have been robbed or worse”. My sister just laughed. I am sure she thought of when her husband walked out on her leaving three young children to care for, with no job, no money and needing help.
As I read today’s Gospel and prayed over it, I thought, this is what Jesus, and my sister, did. They looked below the outward appearance to the real person underneath and reacted to the real person. It is what we are called to do. See the real person. Some people may be scammers and we help them in ways they may or may not accept. However, sometimes people are in need and we can help them in ways that do help.
Sally McFague, a theologian says: “The arrogant eye stares at another in a utilitarian, objectifying way that subdues and controls; the loving eye pays patient, careful attention to the particularity of the other in a non-sentimental, vitally interested way that reverences its reality.”
In April, at the last GIFT gathering, many people wrote on post it notes the answer to the question, “If I don’t help this person, what will happen to him or her?” Here are a few of the comments: “An Act of Kindness can change a person’s life.” “Pay attention to your neighbors, love one another.” “Listen!” “Calling friends we don’t see at church saying ‘I miss you!” “Welcoming everyone, seeing the person.” “If we don’t recognize and welcome new people in the parish, what will happen to them?” “Receive, be open to all, especially the stranger.” “Be aware of and in relationship to the people who live around you.” “Look for lonely and shut in people.” “Know and pay attention to neighbors.” “Respect co-workers.” “Resolve conflict with respect.” “Have the intention to do no harm to those you interact with.” “Be an ally for those who might be or are shut out.” “Stand against racism, sexism, all the ‘isms’.” “Openness to ideas from others for change.”
What these comments say to me is that we need to see the real person, not just some stereotype. That is what Jesus did in the Gospel stories of today. He saw the parents, distraught and needing help, for their daughter. He saw the woman risking everything to be healed. He saw the daughter who yet had life. And he responded to these real people, with real needs. People who were desperate enough to seek this help even though others might rebuke them, laugh at them, or say they shouldn’t have done it since the law or customs prohibited what they did.
We are called, in this day of judging the other based not on who they are, but on a limited view society has of them, called to see beneath the outside to the reality within, and interact with that reality. We acknowledge the evil in the world and those who do it, and we resist with all our might the evil done. In our resistance, though, we do not demonize the other. We stand for what is good, and see the potential for goodness in the other. It is that deep goodness, that Jesus was able to see in the people he met. He resisted evil and never demonized those who were against him, even those who sought his death. He forgave them and prayed for their conversion.
As we go along life's way’ let us see the person beneath the outward appearances, and react to the real person. Let us remember the times we needed help, and someone saw the real person and helped us. Let us follow Jesus, standing strong for what is right, doing good, healing and teaching, and loving people into conversion, into becoming the best they can be. Let us follow the one commandment Jesus gave us, “Love one another as I have loved you.”
Sally McFague, as quoted in Elizabeth Johnson’s ASK THE BEASTS. Bloombury. London UK. 2014. Page 44