1 Corinthians 5:1-8; Luke 6:6-11
Yesterday Mother Teresa was made a saint, this wonderful, admirable woman. And in his homily yesterday Father Ignacio quoted Mother Teresa saying that “our Calcutta” is right here. Corvallis is our Calcutta. Albany.
The poor are all around us: the lonely neighbor who is poor in companionship, in company; the new student at OSU who is maybe intellectually poor, without experience of literature and ideas; the co-worker who is poor emotionally, without patience or compassion or self-control. The homeless and the dying of course need our help and of course need our compassion but in a way they are the more obvious, the more photogenic. We are guilty of a special kind of hypocrisy—as I sometimes am myself—when we profess our love for the marginal and the outcast and yet are cranky with our wives or impatient with a barista.
All Jesus does is heal a single man with a withered hand. Not all men and women with withered hands. Not all the sick and not all the suffering. Just this one man, in this one place and time. And though he does call attention to his act, does do it in the synagogue, right in front of everyone, he doesn’t do this to win favor but to provoke change in the people around him, and he does: this is one of the actions that eventually gets him killed.
But all the people in the streets around him, all the people in Israel, none of them knew this healing had happened, as no one but the servants knew Jesus had changed the water into wine at the Wedding at Cana—a whole a lot of water, into very good wine.
This is the special calculus of Christianity, that the God of the universe tends to each tiny thing and each one of us tiny souls with all his infinite mercy and love, and so in a way, the less people see, the smaller the act, the better. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough?
At the end of each day, what do we think of? What do we think counts? The award we got, the big sale we made, the argument we won? Or the smile we gave someone we passed in the hall, the kind word we said at the copy machine?
We can’t do anything about this election except vote, and send money. We can’t do anything about the war in Syria except vote, and send money. As Jo McGowan points out in the latest Commonweal, 28,000 thousand people lost their lives in terrorist attacks last year, which is terrible, which is awful, but is still a very small number in light of all the world’s people—our chances of being killed in a terrorist attack are one in 20 million—while hunger and malnutrition kill 3.1 million children under the age of five every year, and 2.5 million children die from diseases that can be prevented with vaccinations. But whether it’s 28,000 or 3.1 million, all we can do is be leaven for the person right next to us today. There’s someone waiting for us right now—the person who just popped into our heads, who just came to mind—the nasty colleague, the friend we had an argument with, the elderly aunt we haven’t visited. Let us in our humility accept that this is what we have been given, this one small task, and that even this is too much for us without grace. Let us think of the those who are withered in our own lives, and let us admit to our great need for healing—and let us believe that the yeast of these and all the countless other acts will leaven all the dough, that God in his great mercy is working through all these tiny things for the great, great good of his unimaginable kingdom.