One afternoon a few years ago, my wife went to confession down at St. Francis of Assisi, on 32nd St., in Manhattan. It’s one of the few places in the city that has confession all day, every day – in part, because they have enough friars to handle it. They also can be very creative, and know how to teach a valuable lesson, as my wife found out.
When she completed her confession, the priest didn’t tell her to say five Hail Marys or 10 Our Fathers.
Instead, he asked her to go buy a meal for someone who was homeless.
So, my wife left the church and walked a couple blocks, to the Manhattan Mall, where she went to their food court, and put together a meal in a Styrofoam container. Then she went out to the street, to find someone to give it to.
The first lesson of today: you can never find a homeless person when you need one.
She walked all over Greeley Square, and around Herald Square, for blocks, looking for someone, anyone, to give it to.
Finally, she found one lone ragged man crouched on a street corner. She took a deep breath and went up to him. She held out the container and said, “Hi…I bought you dinner.”
He looked at the container, then looked at her, and said:
“It’s not pork, is it? I don’t eat pork.”
It seems my wife had found the one homeless man in New York City who is kosher.
She told him, no. It was lamb.
His face lit up. “Oh,” he said, “that’s great. I like lamb. Thank you!” and he took the meal, and my wife said goodbye and went on her way.
I think that single gesture was much more than an act of penance. It was a gift. And not just to the homeless man. But also to my wife.
She was required to do what the rich man in today’s gospel wouldn’t do: she had to seek out a man everyone else ignores.
And she had to look into the eyes of a stranger in need...
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