by Ken Rolheiser
Recognizing Jesus at our doorstep

I was seated with my back to the door when the man entered. He looked around and settled at a table. He appeared to be poor, counting his change to see what he could order. My son said later he felt guilty eating the sub when this man appeared to have nothing.

I finished my half sub and headed for the washroom, my back still to the man. When I returned, I picked up the other half sub for my wife visiting at the hospital and we left briskly. I noticed another man in the entrance whose truck was parked behind my car, blocking the exit from the parking lot.

But I had not seen the other stranger at all, the one counting his change. 
And so I puzzle. Why do we so frequently not see the stranger in need of help – the one who is hungry, or thirsty, or lonely, or cold?

In our comfortable middle class society we have some means to help the poor. The crumbs from our table are large at times. Even if we are struggling working class, we have an income, and we do eat rather well and often too much.

I thought of the tenth leper who, on discovering that he had been cured and recognized Jesus, went back to say thank you. I regret that I did not go back to the restaurant after my son shared the details of what he felt and experienced. I was too preoccupied with the activities of my life and my family.

In “Seeing What Lies Near Our Doorsteps” Father Ron Rolheiser talks about the refugee crisis everywhere on borders around the world. According to the United Nations there are now over eighty million refugees around the world. Two-thirds of these are women and children, and the vast majority are not there by choice.

Many of us have a compassion for these suffering, but it might not keep us awake at night. Father Ron suggests we need a wake-up call. Ron goes on to share the story of the rich man who ignored the poor man at his doorstep. Then in Hades the rich man begs the poor man who is now in heaven for a drop of water to quench his thirst. (Luke 16: 19-31).

A great chasm separates the two now, and we gather that in real life the distance between them was very small. But the rich man did not notice the suffering before him. The lesson we can all draw from this parable’s application is that we better try to bridge that gap in this life, where the poor are at our doorsteps and at our borders.

Our doorsteps today include the food bank needs as some families try to purchase back to school supplies and have nothing left for food. It includes the needs in the Ukraine and the world organizations that address global situations that depend on our donations.

Our doorstep includes the struggle for justice Amnesty International pursues. Or the continued needs of the Red Cross or Foster Parents Plan and the families and critical shortages they address, to mention a few.

God’s abundance that we enjoy demands a certain tithe or annual commitment in return. If we all knew this, we would respond more generously to the needs of the world around us.

(562 words)