Passing up an opportunity to serve

I like the story about Mother Teresa, now Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, being on her way to attend a conference on hunger in Bombay (Mumbai), India. On her way there she got lost and arrived late. On her way into the conference, right in front of the conference site — where hundreds of people were talking about food distribution and hunger — Mother Teresa discovered a dying man. With the help of one of her sisters, she picked the man up and took him home, comforting him and preparing him for death.

She never got to the conference on hunger, where people were talking about how in fifteen years they could have so much food — so much this, so much that. She never made it into the midst of the lofty discussion; Jesus stopped her at the entrance to the conference hall, in the form of a dying man.

No doubt participants of the conference had passed the same man by on their way into the building, but none of them had stopped, like those in the biblical account of the Good Samaritan. They had places to go, things to do. But then, so did Mother Teresa.

How easy it is for us to pass the buck when it comes to compassion and mercy! We have many reasons for letting someone else take on humanity's needs. We have many arguments as to why we shouldn't get involved. But are they good reasons?

There is one motivation for us to do as Mother Teresa did — that is to discover Jesus Christ lying on the sidewalk or on the roadways of life, as he beckons for us to come to his rescue. He doesn't tell us to take him down the street to the nearest Salvation Army. He tells us to take him to our own home or the nearest place to get some food or shelter. We will be judged as to how we handle the sick, the hungry and thirsty, the homeless, the naked, and the imprisoned. In this holy Advent season, can we bring a little more hope into our world by helping others? Can we bring a little more hope into our own lives by thinking less of ourselves and more of others? Not an easy task, but the Christ who comes to us in this Advent season will help us see him in the face of those in need and bring all of us hope.

Question for reflection/action/commitment

Why am I tempted to “pass the buck,” to avoid service with silence and inaction?

Let us pray

Lord, watch over your people, who come to you in confidence. Strengthen the hearts of those who hope in you. Give courage to those who falter because of their failures. In this holy season of Advent, lead them closer to you in hope, by power of the your Holy Spirit. May they one day proclaim your saving acts of kindness in your eternal kingdom. Amen.

Bishop Robert J. Baker is a noted speaker and author and currently serves as the bishop of the Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama.

This is an excerpt from "Reasons for Hope: Meditations for the Advent Season." You can read more reflections here.