Last Sunday, a visiting Pastor, Fr.Michael O’Connell, a man we greatly respect and admire, gave the homily, based, he said, on one of the readings for the day, Isaiah 58:7-10.
He had just returned from a three week January vacation in San Diego, a place a bit warmer than the Twin Cities, and he had had a pleasant time.
Michael is about my age, at the top of his career, highly respected by movers and shakers in this metropolitan area, but he is also one who has often spoke from the pulpit about the down times he has personally experienced. He walks the talk, from Isaiah “Share your bread with the hungry, shelter the oppressed and the homeless; clothe the naked when you see them, and do not turn your back on your own.”
Where Peace and Justice is spoken, not far away is Father Michael O’Connell
But it’s not always easy, even for him, as he related last Sunday.
He had rented a car in San Diego, and stopped at an airport area gas station to fill the tank before returning the car. He had plenty of time. One of his quirks, he said, was that he can never remember his zip code, so he doesn’t use credit card in such situations: ordinarily, a zip code is required to validate the card.
Tank filled, he went into the store to pay the bill. It happened that somebody was in front of him, somebody pretty obviously homeless who had come in to buy lunch: standard junk food fare and a soda.
Michael had noted that the station was in an area that seemed to have quite a few homeless.
He waited, and waited and waited. The customer was digging through his pockets for change, pennies and such, and the clerk – who Michael noted to us was named “Rasheed” – was patiently counting the coins and stacking them until the customer had come up with enough spare change to pay for his lunch.
As noted earlier, Michael had a great plenty of time, but was feeling, and apparently looking, annoyed at the delay the homeless guy was causing. His impatience had overcome his sense of understanding and justice – two qualities I know he has in abundance.
Now it was Michael’s turn at the register.
Rasheed had apparently noticed Michael’s agitation, and had no idea who he was, much less that he was a man of the cloth, and just quietly said, “that guys a human, too, just like you and I“.
Nothing more needed to be said.
Chastened and reminded, Father Michael left, returned his car, caught his flight, came home…and shared with us the lesson of Rasheed in the gas station near the International Airport in San Diego.
A good reminder.