Indifference sneaks up on us when we are not careful and we like to pretend we have not become as indifferent as we sometimes really are. But the Lord constantly tries to show us the peril we are in. For me, he sends beggars and the physically suffering. These are angels sent to admonish me, to call me back to my humanity. Catherine Doherty, the foundress of Madonna House would admonish her staff workers to get in touch with their inner street person. Indeed, if we look closely, reflected in the eyes of those who are reduced to begging is an image of ourselves, and at the same time, the Lord himself.
I sometimes wonder whether God does not allow some people to suffer poverty so that the rest of us might begin to understand just how poor we really are. When I am captured by the eyes of my neighbor, it is not that I want to look at physical suffering, material privation, rejection, loneliness, and despair. I catch myself looking the other way, and yet, in this very act, I become aware of my own inhumanity. Memories of the Good Samaritan convict me: the worst poverty with which anyone could ever be inflicted is to see someone broken by the circumstances of life and not to be moved by that person's plight.
This realization is itself a grace - something to take courage in, a starting point for conversion. The truth is, no matter how broken the person is before me, I am more broken - and it is from this sense of where I am really at that I can finally reach out to my brother or sister and find Jesus. Jesus is come to me in the gift of this person -not despite his dire circumstances, but somehow through them. The dynamism of humanity is that in its authentic manifestations it ought only invoke the response of love. In the face of the dehumanizing circumstances before me, how am I to love this man, this woman, with the right reverence owed her and the true honor he deserves? Now, by a pure unexpected grace, I have the freedom that indifference once robbed me of, the freedom to love. Yes, this person before me, who at first I saw as a distraction or even a problem to solve, is truly a gift from God - not just in a general sense, but particularly, in a personal way, for me. This person, this gift from God is unique in all the world. There will never be another moment like this present moment we have in this situation right now. How can I let it pass by? Prayer flows at once, like a river, and sometimes I feel like the good thief, and any kindness or generosity I muster whispers the prayer, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom."
Only the Lord's presence in such a person and through such a person can free me, can pierce me to the heart, so that I might remember what it means to be human again. It is only when we are pierced to the heart that we really begin to pray.