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Life is tough. Nuns are tougher.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Prepare ye the Way

Today I had to trudge up to the Walgreen's to buy toothpaste.  Our Walgreen's stands on the corner of one of the busiest intersections in the Los Angeles area.  Across the street is a 7-11 and a sports bar. And right next to the 7-11, the sports bar and a doughnut shop is a bus stop. It is the filthiest bus stop I have ever seen. If I thought it would do any good, I would personally get out there with a bucket and a scrub brush. But truthfully, between the spilled 7-11 slurpees, ground into the pavement doughnut holes, spilled coffee, spilled beer (sometimes  already been ingested) and half of the students that attend Venice High school, I'm sure my efforts would be unnoticeable in about a day and half.

Because so many people congregate there, and because so very many cars have to stop at the intersection, the corner is also a mecca for the lowest of the lowlife.

Today on my way to find some Colgate, or even better Aquafresh, which is often only $1, I saw a man walking toward me. What mess this character was. He was wearing a black shirt and black pants. He was very thin and his shirt was completely unbuttoned, revealing his scrawny chest. His pants looked like they might just drop to the ground at any second. He had the red leathered skin of someone who is always outdoors combined with someone who will drink anything he can get his hands on. His eyes were glassy.

And I thought, "Here comes Jesus."

I might not have thought that on any other day. I might have worried a little about his menacing eyes. Just last week a homeless man stabbed a woman to death in Hollywood because he asked her for a dollar and she didn't give it to him.  I might have written him off as a pathetic rummy, which he most certainly was, unworthy of help or consideration. Surely if I gave him money he would use it to buy booze. Isn't that the way it goes?

He didn't ask me for money.  He just tromped on by. Later I saw him sprawled by the outside wall of the doughnut shop, a few feet from the bus stop.  

But today I read about St. John the Baptist. Today is the feast day of the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist.  Happy Birthday! or..."Solemn Birthday."  We all know about John the Baptist. It's because of his efforts that we have the sacrament of Baptism, since Jesus went to John to be baptized. We always remember John saying that he should let Jesus baptize him and they sort of argued about that, like when people fight over the check at dinner.

What we don't talk about all that much is one of the things that Jesus said about John:
 “I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John....” “[Y]et the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28).

It's not easy, or even normal, to think of smelly filthy people who wander around with glassy eyes and vacant stares, who are rambling and abusive, or sullen and nasty, as greater than John the Baptist, but Jesus wasn't normal. He message is entirely radical.



7 comments:

Danielle said...

I thought of you last month or so when I sat on the bus next to a guy who was talking about his "group" being "not really the Crips, but kind of like the Crips". He got off, and a nun got on. I just thought of you. That's all.

Kathy (not the other one) said...

Sister, I just read a wonderful book called Let the Great World Spin that made me think of you, because one of the main characters is I guess what you'd call a mendicant friar, ministering to prostitutes in the Bronx in the 1970s, when New York was at it's lowest point. It's the most compassionate novel I've ever read and I'd recommend it to you unreservedly except for some un-nunlike language and situations.

One thing bothers me, though. That character fell in love--genuine, deep, requited love--with a widowed nurse in the nursing home he worked at and after much spiritual torment broke his vows, then died before confessing. I can handle the thought of him doing time in purgatory because of that sin, but being kept out of heaven altogether after all the Christlike good he had done...? Surely not! Please tell me it's not so!

Wendy said...

Kathy,
I've read another book which offers a similar moral situation, and I believe the authors in both cases were trying to say, "So God doesn't really want celibacy." The authors were asserting that such a sin isn't mortal, and may not be a sin at all, in fact they were good acts.

Obviously the character doesn't exist, and so is neither in hell nor in purgatory, but it does raise the question you raised.

Firstly, if someone is sorry for their sin and would confess it if they were able, but dies first, it "counts" as a confession.

Secondly, to me, this is similar to adultery. If he had broken his marriage vows for "true, deep, requited love" how would you feel about it? Is the love of God and the sacred vows to him less than human love or more?

Claudia said...

When I see someone like you have described I often think that once they were somebodies beautiful little baby.

Anonymous said...

What did Jesus mean by "the least in the kingdom of heaven"? Was He referring to Angels? We are all born of woman, so how is it referring to us as those in the kingdom of heaven? Also, John must be in heaven now, so how would some smelly, nasty person here be greater than him?

Josh, Amy, Olivia, Josiah, Girum, Tarikwa, and Taye said...

So what did you do?

De Maria said...

Kathy (not the other one) said...
Sister, I just read a wonderful book called Let the Great World Spin that made me think of you, because one of the main characters is I guess what you'd call a mendicant friar, ministering to prostitutes in the Bronx in the 1970s, when New York was at it's lowest point. It's the most compassionate novel I've ever read and I'd recommend it to you unreservedly except for some un-nunlike language and situations.

One thing bothers me, though. That character fell in love--genuine, deep, requited love--with a widowed nurse in the nursing home he worked at and after much spiritual torment broke his vows, then died before confessing. I can handle the thought of him doing time in purgatory because of that sin, but being kept out of heaven altogether after all the Christlike good he had done...? Surely not! Please tell me it's not so!


He voluntarily turned away from God, did he not?

Ezekiel 18:24
But when the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? All his righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned: in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.

Sorry to be the harbinger of bad news. When we turn to God we must persevere to the end:
Ezekiel 18:27
Again, when the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.

Back to the fictional Friar in your story. If he repented perfectly on his death bed, even though he could not get to confession, he would be saved. That is a teaching based upon God's infinite mercy.

CCC1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called "perfect" (contrition of charity). Such contrition remits venial sins; it also obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.51