Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Is That The Lord Calling?
At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim, so that he could not see, was lying down in his own place; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down within the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called, “Samuel! Samuel!” and he said: “Here I am!” and ran to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said: “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said: “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said: “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak Lord, for thy servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. -- 1Sam 3:2-9
A nurse is trained in emergency care, and for hours a day she works in the hospital emergency room. People enter with life-threatening injuries, and people enter with headaches. There is a prioritization process, but no one is turned away. Some days there are no great emergencies. Some days the same people are seen coming again, and yet again. The nurse is trained in caring, and she cares for them. Should she turn away the ones who continually come back with minor problems?
You walk out of the church on Sunday, and there stands a man dressed in raggedy clothes. “Can I borrow $2 so I can eat today? I’ll pay you back when I can.” You give him $2, and head to your car. The next Sunday, the man is there again, asking the same question, making the same promise. And you again give him $2. By the third Sunday you almost expect the man to be there, and he does not disappoint you. You may even smile at him as you give him $2 yet again --- knowing his promise to re-pay is one he cannot keep.
And then the next day you go to the weekday mass, as you normally do, and walking out of the church, you see the man there again. Again, he asks for only $2. And your mind immediately thinks of your plans for Tuesday mass, and Wednesday, and … and will he be there outside the church those days too? Will he be there every day, looking for you? It is only a minor thing, a minor problem to give, but do you reach a point at which you turn him away?
How many people do you know in your life with a need that won’t go away? How many are in your life with a need that they don’t know how to satisfy? You would like to train them to fish, to solve their problem, but in your heart --- and perhaps from years of experience --- you just know they will NEVER learn to fish. The alcoholic, the drug abuser, the financially incompetent, the never-can-hold-a-job, the physically abusive, the physically abused, the mentally challenged, the autistic, the physically challenged, and the one dying alone: they have many similarities. They often live alone, and they have few (if any) friends. And they have a need which will not go away.
So do you?
From my experience these needy people often fall into two groups: those (like the beggar outside the church) who ask and ask and ask – and then ask yet again. (And some don’t even ask, they demand: “You owe me (guilt, guilt) …. because I’m so needy”, “or you’re so rich”, or even, “you’re so blessed.”) Their needs never end; you can never give enough; their problem never goes away. You think to yourself that if you gave them a million dollars today they would be back tomorrow saying “I hate to ask again, but I just need ….” It never ends. And then there are those who never ask. Perhaps they have tapped out (financially and emotionally) all those they know to beg from, or perhaps they are too embarrassed to ask, or perhaps they feel there life is not worth anyone caring about them. They’ve learned no one wants them around.
Do you stay away from them? Do you say: “I can’t help them”?
Are you really saying: “I can’t love them?”
I haven’t written many book reviews lately, but my reading has not lessened. Lately, I’ve read some very good books, and some very challenging books. They talk about the situations above. They talk about the questions above. They don’t give answers --- there are no simple answers to life’s problems --- but they give examples of what others have done. And they make you think. I’ll be reviewing some of those books in the coming days.
But there is one thing I can tell you now about those books: when I heard last Sunday’s gospel (as written at the start of this post), I recalled some of those difficult people in my life and I thought: “Is that you calling, Lord?”