|Notice the two in the background...|
It's funny, alright, maybe not in the ha-ha amusing way but in an interesting sense nonetheless, we pray that prayer every Sunday at Mass but, when most of us think of sin, we think of things we have done and not what we have not done. It's the obvious that jars our consciences.
However, the subtleties of sin, lie in our failures; that beggar we avoid at the red light so as to avoid giving him a buck, the friend who asks us for a favor and we come up with a lame excuse because we don't want to be bothered or the leaving of something we could have done to our spouse of because of, well, laziness (In my case; guilty, guilty, guilty!).
Last Tuesday, I found myself on that road to Jericho in the parable of the Good Samaritan. However, instead of being the Samaritan, I was more like the priest and Levite, who saw the victim dying by the side of the road and crossed to the other side to avoid him.
Let me start from the beginning. There's an eccentric French lady that lives near my house, who for some strange reason started showing up unannounced at our house for us to give her rides to meetings at our parish, if you can imagine that! This could have been on a random Tuesday or Wednesday night, or on a night there was a special event that we were attending. It didn't matter. Not wanting to be rude and thinking it was our Christian duty, we took her several times.
She's a widow, as I found out, during one of our conversations to and from our destination and she moved to Miami after her husband's death. Her children are already grown and living on their own in other parts of the country so she moved to the States to be closer to them but was living on her own in South Florida (with her dog).
In recent months, we haven't seen much of her much after, one time, she showed up for a ride at an inopportune time and I told her, possibly a bit curt, if not outright rude, that I couldn't give her a ride. In all honesty, I was getting a bit perturbed that she kept showing up asking and expecting a ride! In hindsight, I feel terrible about my lack of charity; maybe it's my Catholic guilt!
In any case, on Tuesday, as I was rushing to the market to pick up dinner because I noticed that the meat I was planning on cooking was going to take way too long to prepare and I needed a Plan B, there she was walking by herself on the sidewalk, pushing a cart in the direction of the market I was heading to. For a minute, I thought about pulling over and taking her the rest of the way.
However, as I got closer, I started thinking of whether this was going to start the cycle going again and I really didn't want it to. So, I turned left at the corner before reaching her.
Yes, just two days removed from a spiritual retreat, where I came out feeling inspired to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the strangers, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the imprisoned, I found myself avoiding a woman, like the Jehovah's Witnesses knocking at the door, because I didn't want to go through the trouble.
But, wait, the story gets worse. As I am driving away in turmoil about what I am doing, I decide to turn back and take her. It's like I have the angel and the demon battling over my shoulder; one saying to pick her up because it's the Christian thing to do. The other saying, "You're in a hurry, she's already almost there. So what if it rains? She must be used to walking in the rain in France! Besides, for all you can tell, she's not hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or imprisoned."
I came around with my car to the street she was still walking on and the demon was saying, "Look, she's even closer now and if you pick her up, then the right thing to do would be to wait for her to finish shopping to take her back home. Your family will get upset that dinner is going to be late because you were waiting for her to finish shopping! And, look, she's all sweaty. She's going to stink up your car." Son of a bi#$%! The demon won! I rode right past her and pretended not to recognize her.
Wow! After ten years of walking in the Light of Christ, and having gone out of my way on many occasions for others, I still revert to my base! And so deliberately! What a fine example of loving my neighbor. Sad.
Yet, the struggle between doing what is right and doing what is convenient is real. It's a choice that every Christian is forced to make with regularity. While, there's no doubt part of me wanted to help, I didn't and the more I don't the easier it gets.
It reminded of a line C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters, "The more often he (man) feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel."
Sin is sin, whether obvious or sublime. It separates us from God. At the center of sin is I. Any time, I put "I" at the center of my actions, more than likely, there is sin. In fact, the more obscure, the more dangerous they can be.
Again from Screwtape, "It does not matter how small the sins are provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one -- the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
The key then is getting to the point, where we recognize when stumble, repenting and seeking God's forgiveness. I've been asking for forgiveness ever since and will be taking it to the Confessional as soon as I can.
In the meantime, I'm hopeful, God will give me another opportunity to be the Good Samaritan and whether it's with our French neighbor, or someone else He puts in my path, I will not fail to do again...