By Jessica Chodaczek
As I was driving home a few weeks ago, I encountered a common sight on the exit ramp of the freeway – a homeless person with a sign: “Homeless. Please help. God Bless You.” I didn’t have any cash on me, so I didn’t roll down my window. But beyond that, I refrained from even making eye contact with this person. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was embarrassment that I wasn’t giving her money. But I think it was also a feeling of “If I pretend not to even see her, then my lack of help isn’t so bad.”
How sad is that. I pretended not even to see her.
Two of today’s Scripture readings touch on a common theme: God choosing individuals ignored or cast aside by society. In the first reading, Samuel comes looking for God’s anointed one among Jesse’s sons, and Jesse presents all but David, the youngest. Why would David even be considered? Jesse had many strong young sons, and so he sent the littlest one, David, out to tend the sheep. But who had the Lord chosen as the next king of Israel? David. God had work to do through David.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus restores sight to a man born blind. Blindness, or any other form of physical ailment, was attributed to sin either of the man himself or of his parents, and he was considered “unclean.” Thus, society basically shunned him. So when Jesus physically touched him, and restored his sight, this was a big deal! And then Jesus said, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”
How interesting. In Scripture God again and again chooses to work through those seen as “least” in our society.
Where the rest of the world writes them off as being too young, or too disabled, or too poor, God scoops them up and uses them to change hearts.
As I’ve been reflecting on these readings, I keep coming back to my experience of ignoring the homeless woman standing on the exit ramp. I’ve tried to put myself in her shoes, and to empathize with feeling “invisible” to most people driving past. How painful, how humiliating. I wonder if the blind beggar in the Gospel reading felt the same way.
Clearly, when I drove past the woman on the exit ramp, I was not putting myself in her shoes. In fact, just the opposite; I had the same attitude as Jesse and the Pharisees--this person is unimportant, unclean, unworthy of my time or attention. Ouch. The truth hurts sometimes, but that’s okay.
It’s necessary in order to keep stripping away that which is not of God within me. And isn’t that what this season of Lent is all about?
So what do I do with this? What’s the take-away? I wish there was an easy solution, a one-size-fits all cure to homeless and wake-up call to the world. But I don’t think there is. I think it’s a little thing--an attitude adjustment on my part--which I pray will continue to open my heart to God’s presence in our world among those most ignored by society. For me, it’s about recognizing God in the socially awkward man at Church and taking the time to find out that he’s very friendly and loves to chat when someone engages him in conversation. Or
refraining from judging the young single mother at my daughter’s gymnastics class, and instead getting to know her.
And next time, when I see a poor person on the exit ramp, I will not pretend she doesn’t exist. I will look her in the eye, give her a kind smile (if nothing else), and acknowledge her dignity. Lord, I see you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica is a wife, mom, theology lover, and Realtor. She and her husband Chris have been married for nearly 10 years, and they have a 3-yr-old named Teresa, who continually cracks them up. Jessica works for LoFaso Real Estate, and her prior jobs included teaching Theology at Beaumont School as well as youth ministry. She is a leap year baby and proudly capitalizes on the fact that she's only "8 years old." Her house is overflowing with books, she's a little addicted to Facebook, and she is almost always found laughing.