Did you ever have someone in your life who took it upon themselves to know what was good for you all the time? I’ve had about 10 of these people over my nearly 40 years come into my life. Roommates, friends, bosses, teachers, spiritual directors, many of them well-meaning people in their own right, but many who would tear you down in an instant just to make a point about what they think is good for you. They will all too easily know what the answers for you are, but don’t really lift a finger to help you in your deep need for assistance.
For they preach but they do not practice.
They tie up heavy burdens hard to carry
and lay them on people’s shoulders,
but they will not lift a finger to move them. — MT 23:6-10
Dorothy Day often remarked that if you are going to work with the homeless be prepared to work with some very difficult people. My mission trip crew often had to be restrained from acting like “the Americans who clearly knew better” than what they considered the more inferior local clientele (quite often they were very humbled by the simplest of tasks for the Nicaraguans).
Jesus is saying the same thing here. That it’s quite easy to tell someone that you know exactly what they should do instead of lifting a finger to suffer along with someone else and do some hard work that needs to be done.
We talk often about many who are “lost causes” in our society. These are people that we outside to the dregs of society, the kind of people that elegant people wouldn’t be caught dead with in the same neighborhood. At best, I might be able to throw some money at them and pity them, but I really don’t often really give any kind of care for these people. Most of us probably don’t.
I can’t recall the last time I learned the name of a homeless person, or listened to their story.
I’m apt to think if someone checks off that they’ve been arrested that they are probably someone i shouldn’t hire.
As the elderly get less “productive” do I ever really think beyond their career achievements to their personhood and wisdom?
Do I just forget about people that I don’t really HAVE to care about at all?
I’m embarrassed to say that I do.
And that I know what’s good for them, but wouldn’t dare move forward to help them really get some clothes on their back, food in their mouths, roofs over their heads…maybe even my own roof over their heads.
I pre-judge people without hearing who they are and what the circumstances are that have led them to where they are now.
And that right there, that breaking of a relationship with humanity, that is what we call sin.
And Jesus is all too familiar with seeing it from the religious leaders of his day.
I am not a better Pharisee nor scribe. These have been issues for all people to deal with and nobody has yet to stop the cycle of poverty that too often doesn’t get us angry, embittered or sad enough for others.
Today, may we continue to follow the example of Ruth who we mentioned yesterday and is mentioned again in our first reading. May we bless another with our time and efforts. May we challenge ourselves to become one with those that suffer and to move others to help us care and protect all those who are in need of protection and care.