It’s the feast of St. John of God today. This is such a great saint to venerate during Lent, because he was full of compassion for the poor, homeless, and sick; and most of the people he served and physically cared for were all three. Essentially, he sought out all of the people that most of us spend our lives avoiding (consciously or unconsciously).
We roll up our windows as we come to the stop light next to the scruffy man with the cardboard sign. When the elderly get to the point that they need help caring for themselves, we move them to “a facility” and rarely visit them. When we encounter people who are ill, our first thought is often whether or not they are contagious, not whether they need help caring for their basic needs or those of their families.
In truth, we live in an individualistic culture that holds self-sufficiency as an ultimate good and ideal state of the human person. Not only do we not run to help those in need (offering many excuses for how they should help themselves), but we keep others at arm’s length when we are going through hard times, have fallen ill, or have reached the point of needing care and assistance ourselves.
As a society of individuals, we aren’t very good at taking care of people in need. I’m not talking about nonprofit organizations and government programs; I’m talking about people caring for people and people letting other people care for them. I know people who are doing this; but as a collective country, we have far to go.
I was reading to our kids this morning from Fr. Lovasik’s New Picture Book of Saints, and we came across St. John of God’s motto: “Labor without stopping; do all the good works you can while you still have the chance.”
While you still have the chance. How hopeful and encouraging! We may have wasted much of our time and overlooked hundreds of opportunities to help those in need, but we still have the chance. I love the perspective of the saints, because it is always counter-cultural. It’s not: Grit your teeth and struggle through helping enough people until you’ve reached your “quota.” Instead, it’s: Praise God! We are still alive and have been given more time to do good for those who need it.
As we continue on our Lenten path, may God open up our hearts to the needs of others. May “the God who sees” give us eyes that notice the suffering of others we would normally pass by. May we care for those in need while we still have time.
St. John of God, pray for us!