Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time
On a Saturday morning, my friend Becky and I took our daughters for breakfast at a local restaurant. Standing outside was a familiar character, who often meandered the sidewalks of the strip mall nearby. He was a noticeably homeless man: stooped over, dark hair greased back, pop bottle glasses, tattered coat, and scuffed black shoes. Becky and I eyed each other, and then simultaneously invited the man to join us for breakfast. He refused repeatedly, but finally acquiesced to a cup of coffee and introduced himself as Charlie. What followed was one of the most interesting and meaningful table conversations—ever. As the girls gobbled syrup-saturated pancakes, he held his coffee cup while sharing hard-earned wisdom: “When I was ten years old, about your age girls, my father gave me my first drink. I had no idea what I was getting into, but I’ve been an alcoholic ever since I was twelve. It’s been a hard life: I flunked out of school; I couldn’t keep a job; I’ve never had a family of my own—all because of that very first drink. To have a good life, girls, stay away from alcohol.” The girls, wide-eyed, were now silent, listening to every word. Shortly after sharing his story, Charlie graciously thanked us and headed out.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus encourages His followers to invite those who cannot repay you. Well, here we were, following the Gospel, thinking we were doing something for this poor man. But in reality, as it always goes, he gave us so much more. Life had humbled Charlie and he became a sort of a sage, sharing his wisdom, as the girls listened with attentive ears. We were humbled by Charlie’s life story—his struggle. We learned the true value of this man, who others perhaps saw as a bum or drunk. The dollar spent on a cup of coffee taught us priceless life lessons, especially the great worth of Charlie as a beloved child of God.
My Grandpa Golinvaux often said, “You’re no better than anyone else, but you’re no worse.” He taught us that true humility rests in knowing ourselves through God’s eyes: beloved, cherished, accepted. We are all created in God’s image and likeness; the only difference lies in our life circumstances, experiences, and our willingness to humble ourselves before God. When listening to Charlie, we were struck by his humility—his utter lack of self-sufficiency.
We name grace—God’s presence--in the domestic church when we remind our children/grandchildren they are not gods, but they are God’s beloved. We name grace when our children realize they are no better—and no worse—than anyone else. We name grace when our children understand they will find favor with God through humility—by putting God first and by treating each person with respect and kindness.
Jesus welcomes those who humbly take the lowest place, for they clearly recognize their need of God’s mercy. St. Augustine wrote, “No one reaches the kingdom of Heaven except by humility.” For a time after our encounter with Charlie, I spotted him shuffling near his usual spots—and then he was gone. I assume he died, without fanfare and in poverty. I also imagine after living a mostly lowly life, Charlie must now be seated in a place of honor—for the humble will be exalted. Now, that’s good news!
When will you invite someone who can’t repay you?
How will you help form your children in humility?
The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.