30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 29, 2017
"If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset. For this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate."
from Exodus 22:20-26
When we were in Spain a few years ago the image of Saint Martin of Tours seemed to pop up everywhere. Saint Martin was a military man in the Roman army who was on his horse when he came across a poor beggar who did not even have a coat to wear. You and I might say, "Well, what can I do? I have only one coat!” But Martin had a unique solution to this problem. Martin is said to have gotten down from the horse, taken off his own coat, splitting it in half and giving one part to the beggar to wear. Later, the Lord appeared to Martin in a dream --- wearing half of a coat --- the very one Saint Martin had given the beggar!
Sooner or later we will receive a healthy dose of what we have dished out to others, whether for good or for evil. You may not have ever given someone half of a coat but the same principle applies. How much more so will that be true in heaven! As we hear in the first reading at Mass, it is obvious that God observes everything we do on Earth, how we act or react, in situations where we have power over others; times when we have the ability to do good with what we have been given from God.
Sometimes our entire future hangs on our response to an opportunity that arises. Saint Paul is very clear that when we show hospitality to strangers, some of us have entertained angels without knowing it. We can’t give to every beggar that we run into on our own journey of life, but the question is: do I practice planned giving to my church and other charities? And have I on occasion also practiced spontaneous giving?
I used to laugh when I saw some of the junk that would collect under and around our old St Vincent de Paul truck we used to have on the property. The worst of it would generally show up after dark or when no one was around to catch the “donor.” I sometimes imagine Our Lord, on the last day coming to greet someone who is just coming into eternal life from this world. Instead of that half-a-coat, the Lord will be handing back to the “giver” the rotten mattress they “donated” for a poor person to sleep on!
Love is not just a matter of feelings and emotions, but of decisions and actions. No matter how many times your spouse may say they love you, if they refuse to take out the garbage, maybe there is a problem. And this is why God puts these inconvenient things like beggars in the road, to see how we will react. I can't react to all of them, but I can react to some.