My credit card expired last week, at the end of February, so I called my province secretary in New Orleans to ask about getting the new one. She said that she assumed I would get it in a day or so, but by Monday (March 5), still no card. I called again, a little more urgently, because I’m leading a spring break trip to the Bronx this weekend, and I REALLY need a credit card to do it. She called them, raised a little hell, and called me back: they’re Express Mailing it to me, she says, and they SWEAR it will be there Wednesday. Wednesday comes, no card, so I call again. OK, they’re mailing a second card out, so one or the other should reach you soon, but it might be Saturday. No, I’m leaving Saturday, I say, even more urgently than last time, and I really need that card. Well, you need to be there to sign for it, so be at home and it should come today (Thursday). You guessed it – not only did I not get my card, but I also wasted a day that I should have spent preparing for the trip, because I was at home waiting for this *$@&! card that never came. “More tortuous than all else is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9) In the reading for today’s mass (8 March 2007), Jeremiah knows well the illusions and falsehoods that we create around ourselves to convince ourselves that we are holy, that we are peaceful or whatever it is that we seek to be. I see in this the old saying, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” As much as I read and write about nonviolence and reconciliation and so on, I got angrier today than I have been in a long time, all over something stupid like not getting a credit card. What might be hiding within me that could be brought out by something REALLY bad – real injustice, true atrocity, not just getting lost in the cracks of a big corporation’s system?
The gospel for today was the story of Lazarus and the rich man (LK 16:19-31). Appropriate considering that I am getting ready to accompany 9 students on a trip to the Bronx to work with homeless people. The rich man walked over Lazarus every day to get onto his property and chose to make him invisible. How many homeless people in St. Louis or New Orleans or Baton Rouge did I choose to ignore? Why does it seem that we (ok, I) need a special event and a thousand-mile drive to pay attention to homeless people? How much energy would we really have to expend here at home to find homeless people, or better, how much energy do we have to expend to consciously avoid seeing them? It is great to go to the Bronx or wherever to be with people for spring break, but maybe it would be even more important for us to come back with a new vision of the needs of people here, that we don’t need to drive a thousand miles to notice poor people. Abraham warns the rich man that if his family would not listen to Moses and the prophets (i.e. the Old Testament, the tradition of the people) they won’t listen even if someone returns from the dead. For us who DO have someone who has returned from death, will the message sink in?