I remember about the boy who was almost burned to death in a fire. By a divine miracle and through superhuman efforts of medical experts, he remains alive today. He is, of course, far from healthy, and it is certain that he will never be healthy again. The poor soul will live with the consequences of his great tragedy.
The whole country has been following the news of this child’s struggle to survive. For days he was part of our lives. Television brought him into our homes. All of us were happy to hear about his return to Canada from his treatment in the US. We were attentive to his every movement, convinced that everything that could possibly have been done for him was done. And then, just as with everything that triggers our imagination for a little while, we were ready to forget all about him and to move on. But suddenly, the poor boy is back in our lives, this time with another unhappy reason.
What exactly happened?
His neighbours and fellow citizens had helped his family. They had organized a campaign to raise money for his treatment in hospital. We all know that in America this is no small amount of money. Soon an adequate home was bought for him. As an invalid he was confined to a wheelchair with which he moved around his home.
What kind people, we think. Not really, I say. This is what led me to reflect on the people of our day.
Suddenly boy’s neighbours were demonstrating, there was a loud outcry, passions were stirred, and suddenly everyone was arguing with everyone else.
The boy again became the centre of media interest. He did not need this in the least bit and it was not in the least bit useful for him. All he needed was peace and quiet and the love and closeness of his loved ones. Since peace and quiet were lost, his parents decided to move away. They chose a place in British Columbia where the climate was more favourable for their child. The neighbours and donors did not like this. They had given donations to the family in order to have the proof of their generosity and goodness in plain sight. Now that the boy was gone, there would be no more charity and kindness. They launched another campaign – to strip the family of all the charitable donations that they had been given, the money, the home. They wanted the boy stripped of everything and gone from their midst, alone and humiliated.
I wonder what remains of that true and honest selfless love and goodness, the goodness that does not want anything in return. Whatever happened to God’s commandment, let not your left hand know what the right hand is doing?
The man of today has placed himself in the centre of the universe and everything revolves around him. Even when he is showing kindness to another, he still believes himself to be at the centre, giving in order to get. Pure interest is at stake everywhere. Also, the man of today is impatient. He cannot wait for the future to reveal his deeds of today. He needs to see the result of his deeds here and now. He does not leave judgment and rewards up to God. Instead, he expects a reward from people here and now, he expects applause and ovations for his good works.
Holy Gospel teaches us to give without interest or speculation. We read the Gospel’s story of the rich man, whose name Christ does not even mention, and Lazarus, the beggar. The rich man “was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day.” (Luke 16:19) Christ does not say that this man was evil, nor that he was cruel and unmerciful. It is implied that he was respectable and well liked, for how else would he have had guests at his home every day? What Christ does not say, but what is also implied, is that invited into his home only those that invited him and entertained only those that entertained him. Lazarus did not fit into these categories. By entertaining only those who entertained him and by doing good only to those who did good to him, the rich man did not actually do any good. The only good he could have done was to feed the poor beggar and give to him who could not give back to him. Out of sheer carelessness, the rich man did not take this opportunity to do good to his fellow man.
And here is the problem. “If you love those who love you, what reward have you?… and if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” (Matthew 6:46-47)
Each one of us is given an opportunity to do good. Each one of us is often given a challenge in the form of someone who needs help from us. One must not simplify things and think that all problems can be solved by writing a cheque. Of course, there are many people who need our financial help, but there are many more who need our moral support, a kind word and honest interest in their problems. Most of us have no idea what it is like for a widow who, just one year ago, while her husband was still alive, had a houseful of guests for Slava, and now, all of a sudden, on the day of her Slava, no one even shows up on her doorstep or calls her on the phone. It is not a matter of her not having enough – in fact, she probably has more than enough and is not lacking in anything but a kind word from a friend.
Christ is always waiting for us, always in a different way. Sometimes he comes to us in the form of a working man who has lost his job and has a family to feed, sometimes in the form of a homeless man who has no roof over his head, sometimes in the form of the lonely who needs support. Whenever we do something for one of them, we done it for Christ.
The boy from the beginning of our story had two great tragedies happen to him. The first was the fire that burned almost all of his body and the other, more difficult, burning on the fire of human malice and egoism. Christ suffers with him in this second tragedy. His fellow men will have to give an answer before Christ for their actions. And we will also have to answer for every instance that we had Christ before us in the semblance of a needy fellow human being.
“Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.” (Matthew 25:40) says Christ.