In the mid-60s, my parents packed up their small family and moved us to Hong Kong, where my Dad helped to start a missions hospital. Refugees had flooded into Hong Kong after the civil war in mainland China and the needs were great.
At five years old I knew little of refugees or hospitals. But I remember glimpsing alleys full of children, poor children wearing not much more than rags (if they wore anything at all). One day, we pulled into the line of cars waiting to board the Star Ferry to cross Victoria Harbour. People were everywhere, pushing and shoving, it seemed to me, a blur of angry motion on the docks. A man wailed something that I could not understand. Then he shoved his mangled hand against my window, stumps of fingers saying what his words could not.
Our car moved forward, and the man was gone. Half a century later, his hand — and all it represents, that overwhelming mass, that riot of need — still haunts me.
I am surrounded by needs today, even if they’re of a different kind. They push and shove, they tumble in a blur. Sometimes they shout and wail. But more often than not, I am sealed within the car of my own concerns, pushing towards my own safe destination. It takes a drastic need, something raw and aching shoved into my face, to call me to attention.
Lord, how did you you find the strength to touch the leper, to heal the hurts brought to your feet? In today’s gospel, we read in Luke 5: “great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed” (vss. 15-16).
Help me remember to withdraw and pray when I am overwhelmed with needs. Then fill me with your love, that I might open the door of my life and reach out to touch and heal.
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Recently Pope Francis asked, “How many of us, myself included, have lost our bearings; we are no longer attentive to the world in which we live; we don’t care; we don’t protect what God created for everyone, and we end up unable even to care for one another!” (From his July 2013 homily at a mass for those who drowned off the coast of Italy.)
May each of us, in our small ways, be part of ending this “globalization of indifference.”