Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 29, 2023
In my inner-city parish people come to us daily for help with rent, food, medical needs. I’m not a social worker, and so I’m grateful for the knowledgeable people on our team who can find the help people need. But when I read today’s First Reading–a portion of the Mosaic Law taken from the Book of Exodus–I do get some basic instructions for some practical things I can do to help.
God tells me there that my conduct toward people who are vulnerable because of any human need must be tempered by recalling my own human condition. The people of Israel–the law says–should remember they were once strangers in Egypt; and so the stranger on their doorsteps ought to receive respect and care. God has been good to me in my times of real need; and now God may be asking me to do the same for someone.
Later in the passage there’s a very practical instruction about returning a man’s cloak to him for the night, even though you’ve demanded it as a loan guarantee. That instruction tells me that any relationship I have with the poor must honor people’s God-given dignity. Thanks to that instruction I look into a person’s eyes on the soup kitchen line, and try to communicate our shared relationship in the Lord. God’s law is full of the compassion of God—and that’s the first thing I can share with my fellow human being.