Poverty and Providence
Updated: Mar 2, 2022
During rush-hour traffic it is not unusual to pass someone begging in the middle of the interstate near Yankee Stadium. Since this is a regular occurrence all over New York City, we stock our cars with what we call “car packs” – a small Ziploc bag with a few granola bars, a napkin, and a Divine Mercy card. Recently on my way upstate for hermitage (two days of prayer which we take monthly), I was driving slowly enough in traffic to see someone ahead begging in the median. I saw a hand stretch out a few cars in front of me and give him what I assumed to be some change, and from the next car the same thing. As I got closer, I rolled down my window, grabbed a “car pack”, and made eye contact with him. I smiled and he too smiled back as I approached. “Would you like some granola bars?” I asked quickly, since traffic was still moving. “Yes, of course. Thank you. Get home safe. God bless,” he replied and then added, “I love you.” I then realized that many of us sisters have met him along the way since a greeting with “I love you” at the end was definitely unique. As I pulled away, I immediately felt the touch of Jesus through those words and knew in some mysterious way they were from Him. “You did it to me…” (Matthew 25: 40).
Later that evening as I was in the chapel praying before the Blessed Sacrament, I recalled that moment on the interstate. My thoughts turned to the poor man, and I felt his gaze like a mirror on my life. What do I have that has not been given to me? I am a beggar in every way. The sandals on my feet, the sweater I am wearing, the bible in my hands, the pasta I had for lunch, the car I drove to get here have all been so generously provided by our benefactors. And then I thought of not only the externals but also grace and life and breath – and on and on the list ran through my mind. I have not spent one dollar or worked one hour to pay for anything, especially in the area of grace. These thoughts convicted me of my absolute dependence on God – all is gift, nothing is really mine, all has been freely given to me.
The Lord was reminding me through this encounter with a poor man: to surrender my self-reliance and let God be God and take care of me; to increase thanksgiving and gratitude and praise; and to receive His love through the poor, who can teach us more than we could ever learn from books.
As we begin our journey through Lent, may our almsgiving deepen our awareness of our dependence on God, may our prayer in, with, and through Christ deepen our charity, and may our fasting make room for the graces God longs to pour out upon us this holy season. Amen.
Sr. Catherine, CFR