Does anybody care?
I suppose that this is a question we all ask ourselves in the hopefully rare, though occasional, moments of tiredness, disappointment, disillusionment, despair that come to us now and then. There are moments of tiredness and stress in all of our lives, when we are at a low ebb, especially after a lot of activity, when we stop and ask ourselves, when left to ourselves, what is it all for? What does it matter? Does anybody care? Does anything I say or do make a difference?
It happens in all walks of life, to the mother of young children pacing the floors with a sick child in her arms at 4 am, to someone who is newly retired and the workplace carries on without them, to someone sick in bed left to their thoughts for a long time without a visitor. At vulnerable times like these, it may just be the mind and body telling us to take much overdue rest or restore some order and balance in our lives if we have been working too hard, or we have been taking ourselves too seriously.
But there are people around us who do ask this question of themselves regularly, ‘does anybody really care?’
This is where God comes in and where we come in. Some people who question the existence of God actually question His presence because they are not convinced that we believe it. They are not convinced by our witness when we fail to see God in others.
The image we are given in the First Reading from Ezekiel today is of a God who cares. The reading (as well as the Psalm) is worth pondering over – God is a shepherd in the midst of us - not some far way off, first and foremost. He cares for all. The images used suggest not only the different kinds of people (sheep) there are, but the various times in my life and yours, when in the terrifying mist and darkness of life, we have become lost altogether, have strayed from the path of God, have been wounded (by others or by ourselves) or have been sick – and God has come to our rescue – to nourish us and to guide us to safety and give us rest.
It is I venture to say only when we have had some experience of rescue by God (directly in prayer or His working through the goodness, patience and kindness of others), that we come to the Gospel teaching that we are called to do likewise to others. We can witness to God’s goodness to ourselves by passing it on. Even if people question whether God exists or cares, at least by our words, our actions, our presence, we can say ‘at least I do’. Very often I don’t think many people are really questioning God’s existence so much as they are crying for help. We are the ones who are called to be the proofs of God’s existence through our concrete acts of care and concern.
Sometimes in the lives of the saints God appeared in disguise as one of 'the least' –as a leper to St Francis, as a poor man in need of a cloak to St Martin, as a starving boy at a kitchen door in the life of St Faustina. Later he would reveal Himself in His glory to them thanking them for the kindness they and ventured to show Him.
As we come then to the end of another year we are called today then to pause and reflect on the extent of our generosity to those less well-off than ourselves in the past year. What resolution(s) can I make to improve?
Finally one last brief story in the life of St Vincent de Paul, when a rich aristocratic lady asked him one day, ‘what can I do for the poor?’ he answered her on word, maybe one word we need to hear too.
'What can I do?' His reply, one word: ‘more’.