Less Duty And More Love
It was a Wednesday afternoon, and we had door hours. I had been helping a steady stream of people with everything from sandwiches to shoes, when the last man in line, Roberto, kindly asked me if he could collect his pantry food. I told him to meet me at the back of the convent where we regularly place bags full of food in large bins for poor families to pick up at scheduled times.
On my way to the back door, I was stopped by a note on the kitchen counter reminding me that one of our neighbors, Onesima, was coming at 1pm for her food. It was 3:30pm. I felt an immediate interior sinking. It was not so much the thought that this poor woman had walked all the way to the convent only to find an empty bin that caused my emotional upset. My ego was knocked; I felt embarrassed at my forgetfulness, and my interior response was one of annoyance at the demands the poor make on me. A few self-justifying reasons sprang to my defense, “I was really busy at the front door this afternoon. It’s too hard to help people at the front door and remember to put food in the bins anyway.” That night we called Onesima, apologized for my mistake, and told her she could come the following day to pick up her food. Problem solved. Forgetting Onesima’s food simply felt like one of many moments in the shuffle of a busy day.
I had nearly forgotten the preceding day’s events until the next morning at Mass. The words from the first reading grabbed me:
“Beloved: I have experienced much joy and encouragement from your love…I urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus…I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you…so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary…welcome him as you would me”(Philemon 7-20).
The Lord was speaking. Jesus was reminding me that when the poor come to the door, He is the One approaching. When Onesima had come at 1pm for her pantry food, Jesus’ eyes were fixed on my heart, looking for my love. His eyes see the love hidden behind the many simple acts that make my day. Responsibilities can be easy to forget, but an opportunity to love Jesus, I don’t want to miss.
Jesus was smiling and gently saying, “Less duty and more love, Sr. Philomena. Your love is precious to Me. I am always looking for it.” His voice was warm, loving, gracious and gentle—hallmarks of my experience of Him. His corrections are full of affection. He loves my ego away. Through the many, and seemingly small invitations that He offers me to love Him in the poor, Jesus is really the One serving me.
Sr. Philomena, CFR