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.