Today’s Gospel has always had a deep impact on me, especially as I find myself living in downtown Toronto right now. I have asked myself many times, will I find myself in the rich man’s unfortunate shoes one day, having ignored someone in need?
I have wrestled with the most appropriate way to live out this Gospel experience. Some people carry a lot of coin in their pockets and give to those who ask for it. Some people buy a person on the street a sandwich, but I often find myself with little time to do that. I am in no way averse to either of these things and there are times to do both, but outside of either of those opportunities, it is and always will be important to pray for others: and so the very least and most I can do is to smile, say hello or acknowledge a person in need and say a prayer for their needs. If we have means to help, of course we should; but our help could be to give of our time, treasure or talents to help them in many different ways, not only in pocket change or a meal – but ultimately and most importantly not to simply offer others in need our pity and certainly not to overlook them.
Many years ago now, when I was visiting downtown Toronto; I remember seeing a very young man from afar asking for change. In the 5 minutes I watched him, he didn’t get much of anything. In fact, I was saddened by what I saw that he was virtually invisible. From what I could tell, he was fairly recently on the streets but I was impressed that despite everyone ignoring him, he didn’t give up. I didn’t have much to offer him, but gave what I could (was pittance as I recall) and said hello to him, which seemed to be something. Now, I’m not telling you this for a pat on my own back. It was that encounter and my many reflections on this Gospel that have led me to believe that whether I can help out with money or food, I must never overlook people. When we become desensitized to others, when we become indifferent to others around us – we lose our God-given humanity and we will find ourselves in the place of the rich fool. We will be accountable for our actions, which we aren’t even aware of and we won’t know what to do with it when we are presented with those actions.
So what to do? We may be prepared and ready to move forward and to try our very best not to ignore people from today and every day forward, but what about the people (maybe even the many people) we’ve ignored or overlooked, the people we were indifferent to yesterday or previously in our lives? Pray for them now! Spend some time before the Lord now and pray for them now, invoke the prayers of your favorite saint to pay for them now. You may not feel it right now, but if that’s what you do to rectify the past and make the commitment today and moving forward not to be indifferent and not to overlook people – be assured that when the time comes for You to meet the Lord face to face, everyone will recognize you for the prayers you offered for them; a powerful and important gift.