26th Sunday in Ordinary Time
September 29, 2019
By Br. Robert Wotypka, OFM Cap.
The 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time began early for me this week. CCS was invited to participate in the Archdiocese’s Seven Days of Service events, and Luke's Gospel today was the text we prayed with. Lots of families with young children came out to Saint John XXIII Parish in Port Washington on Wednesday the 25th, and after the reading was proclaimed I asked the kids: did you hear anything that you didn’t understand or any words you don’t know? Did you like this story? Did it upset you? What about this detail – “Dogs even used to come and lick his sores.” What was that about? Would you like that?
And a girl raised her hand and said, “I would let a dog lick my sores, I would like that.” And the adult who was with her said, “A dog’s tongue is very clean, and the licking from a dog’s tongue, that’s almost as good as an antiseptic.” Now this was waaaay off the direction I was going to go in, but that’s okay. It’s proof that Scripture is alive. How? Because a living thing changes, and it responds to its environment. This is how Scripture can be experienced, especially the parables of Jesus.
Mother and child were not wrong, not at all. This action, as Jesus described in the parable, was not a “warm and fuzzy.” It’s just that we think of dogs differently, especially in our culture. We are a pet-centric society, aren’t we? Dogs are members of the family, they sleep in our beds, we send them to school, or for therapy. It was not so in the time of the Nazarene. Jesus knew that a dog’s tongue can have curative properties, and he knew that his hearers didn’t know that, so that was maybe not his point. What was?
See if this resonates: it was about who knew what. And who did what. Jesus made it clear that the rich man knew about Lazarus. He knew, and he did not respond. He is not alone. I have seen people sleeping on the street my whole life, and so have many of my brothers. We pray with a breviary that was created after Vatican II and published in 1972. Here is an Intercession from Sunday Week II: “In your goodness have compassion on the homeless; help them to find proper housing.” 1972!
Being in the partnerships and contributing to the effort that helped to create Capuchin Apartments and Saint Anthony Apartments is a way of acting on what we know about our brothers and sisters who need a safe home. Look at it this way: that’s 98 homes that did not exist before, and over 100 lives that have been touched with love and changed through mercy. We know, and we respond. And we know there is more to do.
This week Father Muthu and I also went to a meeting hosted by a local business association to discuss “Tent City,” the encampment under I-794 where some four score of our brothers and sisters are living. The city and the county were represented, and the non-profit and foundation community, and we had an honest and revelatory discussion. From my management consultant days, I learned this: the problem you name is the problem you solve. But this conversation was focused on people and on helping people, not on problems and solving problems. And that will make all the difference. There is more to learn, and more to do. Thank you to CCS staff, volunteers, and supporters who make our work possible and stay committed to our mission so that everyone can taste and see the goodness of God and God’s people.